soccer made in st. louis


Lori Chalupny (left) and Alyssa Mautz have helped the Chicago Red Stars to the championship game of the WPSL Elite League. (Chicago Red Stars/Smith photo)

Chalupny, the team’s captain, is playing an attacking center midfielder, the first largely offensive role she’s had after many years as either a wing midfielder or defender. Chalupny finished the regular season tied for the team scoring lead with 14 points on five goals and four assists. She was tied for sixth in points for the entire eight-team league. Chalupny had a goal and an assist in Chicago’s 3-1 triumph over the Boston Breakers in the semifinals July 25. Mautz, employed as a free-ranging wing midfielder/forward, had seven points on three goals and one assist.

Chalupny, a former captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team from Crestwood in St. Louis County, and Mautz, a second-year player from O’Fallon, Mo., barely knew each other until the folding of Women’s Professional Soccer earlier this year. “Alyssa is quite a bit younger than me,” the 28-year-old Chalupny says of the 22-year-old Mautz. “We met through the whole Chicago thing.”

Mautz’s select club coach, Scott McDoniel at St. Louis Scott Gallagher, suggested to Mautz that she follow Chalupny to Chicago. “I had played against Lori when I was a U-19 so she knew how I played and told me to come on up,” Mautz says. “That’s pretty much how it started in Chicago.”

Both were slated to be in the WPS, the first division of women’s pro soccer in the United States. Chalupny, who had played for the old St. Louis Athletica and the Atlanta Beat, had signed with the Philadelphia Independence for 2012. Mautz was to begin her second season with Sky Blue of New Jersey. The WPSL, which had shared second-division status with the United Soccer Leagues’ W League, put together the Elite League on short notice to try to fill the void created when the WPS announced Jan. 30 it would suspend operations for 2012. The WPS officially disbanded for good on May 18.

That left Chalupny and Mautz looking for a club on short notice. “After the WPS folded, it was a scramble to find a team,” Chalupny says. “I knew a lot of the players here. That made the decision pretty easy, and it’s always nice to be close to home.”

With 91 caps for the USA and a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, Chalupny figured to be an important part of any team she would have joined this season. Mautz, though, worked hard to adjust during her 2011 season with Sky Blue after three exceptional seasons at Texas A&M. (She transferred to A&M after her freshman season at St. Louis U.)

“I went to practice early every day and worked on whatever the coach said I had to work on to get on the field more,” says Mautz, who played high school soccer at Fort Zumwalt West. “The style of play was a lot faster and I wasn’t ready for it. But the extra work helped. I started to catch up with the girls at practice. The experience of being in WPS gives me an advantage now over some of the other girls who don’t have that experience.”

Mautz played in five matches for Sky Blue, including two starts, and scored once. She focused on speed, quickness and agility after the season, as shown in a video of one of her workouts. Now, she says, “I’m trying to be  a role model to some of our players and show them the speed of play.”

The Red Stars were a WPS franchise in 2009-10, then moved into the second-division WPSL last season. The current roster includes 12 ex-WPS players, including former Athletica defender Elise Addis (Elise Weber while with the Athletica).

The Elite League is more of a semipro operation, with college players mixed with WPS veterans. Many of the standout foreign players in WPS, such as Brazil’s Marta, left U.S. soccer altogether and found homes with pro teams overseas.

“The league is doing the best it can with what it has,” Mautz says. “It’s the same level almost as WPS, but we play against a lot of college girls so it’s a little different than WPS.”

The Red Stars strive to play an entertaining attacking style, Chalupny says. “We try to get lots of numbers forward, with lots of interchange and keeping the ball. I’m playing a little bit of forward as well, trying to link the attack and getting some opportunities.”

The style has worked well enough to drive the Red Stars to the semifinals Wednesday night. The winners meet in the league championship match two days later. The semifinals and final will be played at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y., home of the Western New York Flash in the Elite League.

After that, Chalupny, Mautz and many of their peers are weighing their options. Chalupny tried coaching at the college level last fall as an assistant on the women’s team at Washington U. while Mautz took a full load of classes at Texas A&M.

Chalupny is not sure if she will coach in the fall. Chalupny and Mautz are considering going overseas to play. Mautz says she hasn’t set her sights on a destination. Chalupny leans toward Sweden, where Marta and former Athletica midfielder Elaine play in the Damallsvenskan, the Swedish women’s first division.

“Their season meshes up well with ours in terms of being able to go there in the second half of their season (from August until early November),” Chalupny says. “They’ll be looking to add some players for the second half.”

It’s been two years since Chalupny’s history of concussions led the U.S. Soccer Federation to rule her medically ineligible to play for the USA on the advice of USSF’s medical staff. But physicians for her pro teams cleared her to play, and she still hopes to be called back to the national team. “If I get overseas, it will help with that dream of playing through maintaining my skills and conditioning and getting healthy,” she says.

As for women’s soccer in the U.S., Chalupny and Mautz aren’t sure what to expect next year after the twists and turns that the sport has taken in 2012. (A recent report on discussed a new women’s league being planned for 2013.) “Our season this year is just three months long,” Mautz says. “I want a full season with teams across the country playing at a high level.”

Says Chalupny: “You have to take it season by season. This league has a good model and hopefully we can grow it and make it professional one day. But for right now we’re enjoying playing while we all work jobs on the side, so that’s all right.”