Prioritizing the Importance of Community Just as Much as Growth on the Field
Published Jul 29, 2021
Photo Credits - Chicago City SC Media

Although the 2021 season was just Chicago City SC’s third season in the WPSL, they have continued to evolve since their inception in 2013. Originally launching as a recreational club, Chicago City grew into a travel club and began adding their top teams into regional leagues.

The decision to join WPSL in 2018 was to provide a pathway to professional soccer for their players like Gianna Milaro – the former Purdue University midfielder signed a professional contract in Iceland with Fram Football Club ahead of the 2021 season.

The talent diversity seen across the league is a unique advantage Chicago City embraces. Their roster embodies a wide variety of experience levels training together from collegiate players to former professionals and players as young as 15-years-old.

In previous seasons, Chicago City head coach Nick Mulvaney has been able to incorporate international players with local talent to allow a diverse group of athletes on roster. Unfortunately, COVID-19 travel restrictions didn’t allow Mulvaney to have this depth within his roster pool which may have played a role in this season’s results.

For comparison, Mulvaney had a full slate of international starters in 2019, their second season with the league, and Chicago City finished second behind the Red Stars Reserves in conference standings. This season proved more difficult for Mulvaney’s side as they finished in sixth place of the Lake Michigan Conference, but below the surface of simply looking at the conference table are positives for Chicago City.

Coming into 2021, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Lake Michigan Conference as the six-team conference included teams predominately new to the WPSL – minus the Red Star Reserves.

Chicago Dutch Lions and Milwaukee Bavarians were set for their inaugural seasons, Green Bay Glory joined the league in 2019, and both Milwaukee Torrent and Chicago City were gearing up for their third seasons.

Mulvaney’s side opened the season at home versus heavy favorites Red Stars Reserves. Their two matches against the reigning conference champions were their biggest defeats of the season as they were outscored 10/1. Chicago City’s three other losses would only be a difference from a single goal.

Another setback came from draws against Green Bay Glory and Milwaukee Bavarians where Chicago City gave up two late equalizers at home.

On June 19, Chicago City played a hard-fought, back and forth match against the Glory. After a scoreless first half, forward Gabrielle Whittinghill put Chicago City up 1-0 in the 46’. Twenty minutes later, Glory would convert a penalty kick in the 67’ to level the score.

In the final minutes of regulation, midfielder Molly Pfeiffer would give Chicago City the lead again in the 86’ with what would appear to be the game-winner.  However, midfielder Trudy Quidzinski would equalize in the 89’ for Glory to draw the final score at 2-2.

Mulvaney’s side would find themselves in a similar situation later in the season as they hosted the Bavarians on July 12. Midfielder Jazmin Castanon put Chicago City up early with a goal in the 3’ and midfielder Freya Glen increased that lead in the 23’ to make the score 2-0. The Bavarians, however, would take the momentum into the break with a goal of their own in the final minutes of the first half.

The Bavarians would capitalize on that momentum with a second goal just 10 minutes into the second half to level the score 2-2. The score would hold until the 81’ when Nikia Smith found the back of the net to give the lead back to Chicago City. However, as fate would have it, the lead would not hold through the final whistle before forward Rachel Dallet equalized in the 90’ for the Bavarians.

The dropped six points from these two late equalizers as well as their other close defeats could have proved the difference-maker that would have given a more accurate picture of the strength of Chicago City. Mulvaney still sees his side as one of the deepest rosters he’s had in a long time.

Though for Chicago City, it’s more about the off-the-field culture than the final score. Results are a great reward for training and competing, but Mulvaney’s players quickly find out this club focuses on the importance of community just as much as growth on the field.

Inner-city is a big part of what we are,” Mulvaney said. “We get the girls out working the community clinics and just being in the center of the city.”

Chicago City SC teamed up with the Chicago Soccer Foundation to help provide access to kids in the city that don’t have the means to play organized soccer. Chicago City players have the opportunity to be directly involved with these local youth soccer camps.

This is one way Mulvaney turns a summer WPSL season into an entire experience for his players as they have the opportunity to develop on the soccer field but also make an impact in the Chicagoland area.

Throughout its [WPSL] progression, we’ve been very pleased with how the league is run,” Mulvaney said. “It has high standards, and we want to create a professional environment for our players. It’s key for these girls.

Chicago City SC has created an environment that benefits the club, the players, and the Chicago community by building professionals on and off the field.



  Author:  Thomas Costello,  @1thomascostello (Twitter)
  WPSL Contributor - Central Region