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Monday, April 15

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Red Stars Wed Jul 06 2011

Red Stars Return for a Brief Home Season

By Veronica Arreola

Women's professional sports has a long history of ups and downs. Women's professional soccer reached its peak in 2000 by riding the wave of Mia Hamm fever and the USA team winning the World Cup in sports bra-baring style. But then the fans did not show up and the Women's United Soccer Association folded in 2003. In 2009, the Women's Professional Soccer League opened shop with a Chicago franchise, the Chicago Red Stars, and played at the beautiful Toyota Park in Bridgeview. They fielded all-star players like Illinoisan Ella Masar and Brazil's Cristiane.

Yet after the 2010 season, the Red Stars had to cease operations due to an inability to meet the league's financial requirements.

But wait! In early 2011, an email was sent to fans that the Red Stars would indeed play in 2011, but would be joining the Women's Premier Soccer League. Despite its name, it is not the top-notch league, but it does have 60 teams with 10 divisions. The second change was that the Red Stars would move from Bridgeport to Lisle and play at Benedictine University.

The last change, the one that is the most drastic for fans, is that only two of their five home games would be open to the public. Last Saturday was the home opener and this Sunday at 6 p.m. will be the home finale. $10 gets you a ticket, free parking and player autographs after the game.

Despite the longer drive to see the Red Stars play, it was well worth it. Benedictine University has an excellent sports complex.

The game was fabulous. It was not just because the Red Stars won 5-0, but that they played at their best. The Iowa Rush did not stand a chance as the Red Stars kept the ball on the Rush's end of the field most of the match. The highlight of the game was the third goal, which was the result of a Michelle Weissenhofer flip throw-in (see video below) that Jackie Santacaterina then put into the net.

The crowd was a good size, full of life and was well-behaved despite the Benedictine concession stand being short on items and workers on a 90-degree day. You could hear dads talking to their daughters not just about the game, but the USA's World Cup win earlier that day. The home crowd applauded saves by the Rush keeper. Grown women shouted after each goal.

Bottom line? It was just like any other sporting event, but better behaved.

Last year, I started a Facebook group to challenge friends and friends of friends to attend one women's sporting event in 2010. We grew to almost 900 pledges. For 2011, I moved the group to an undated page to indicate the challenge was not over once the new year began.

In the world of sports, money fields the teams. If we want to have the luxury to cheer for a women's professional team, we have to get out there and watch a game, buy season tickets and wear their gear.

The Red Stars are in the playoff hunt, so Sunday's game will mean a lot! Plus, you have to see the Weissenhofer flip throw-in in person. It really is awesome.

Head on out to Lisle and enjoy a sporting event without fans getting into fights, calling each other names or beer spilled everywhere. Do eat before hand in case the concession stand doesn't stand the test of the crowd. But save room for the nachos. You have to have nachos at a game.

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