Dames resigns after Red Stars’ NWSL loss

Leagues

After a year of coaching changes, the National Women’s Soccer League has added one more with the resignation of Rory Dames, whose Chicago Red Stars suffered a heart-breaking 2-1 extra time loss in the championship to the Washington Spirit less than 48 hours prior.

Kelley O’Hara scored in the 97th minute for Saturday’s Spirit win, the first league championship for Washington, who advanced to the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over second-seeded OL Reign.

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The championship game closed a tumultuous ninth season for the league. The Spirit had to forfeit a pair of games this season because of coronavirus issues. The team played under interim coach Kris Ward after Richie Burke was fired in September for violating the league’s anti-harassment policy.

Of the league’s 10 teams, only one has kept their coach for the entirety of 2021 so far: James Clarkson of the Houston Dash.

In a news release issued just before midnight local Chicago time Sunday, the Red Stars announced Dames had resigned and a search for a replacement would begin.

“For 11 years, I have dedicated myself to help build the Chicago Red Stars into one of the top international clubs,” Dames said in the statement. “Effective today, I’m refocusing my attention to my family and future endeavors, and I am resigning as coach of the Chicago Red Stars. I’d like to thank the Chicago Red Stars organization, the fans and the players who I have had the opportunity to work with in their professional soccer careers.”

Dames, 48, led the Red Stars to the NWSL Championship on Saturday, falling 2-1 after extra time in a thrilling back-and-forth match. He had been the Red Stars’ only coach in the NWSL, joining the club in 2011 before the NWSL’s 2013 launch.

Under Dames, the Red Stars reached the playoff finals in both 2021 and 2019, and reached the final of the 2020 pandemic tournament called the Challenge Cup, losing all three.

“Under Rory’s leadership we have been a remarkably consistent and excellent club on the field,” the news release said, attributing the quote to “the Chicago Red Stars” rather than a club owner or executive.

“We continually evaluate our team and front office environment, and given the dynamic change underway in the league, it is time to begin the next chapter of the Red Stars with a search for new leadership of the team.”

Several coaching changes in other clubs were due to allegations of improper behavior, including the termination of Paul Riley by the North Carolina Courage.

Games were cancelled last month as players protested the handling of the allegations against Riley, and they set forth a list of demands via their union, the NWSL Players Association. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned last month amid the controversy after striker Alex Morgan revealed that Baird declined to re-investigate Riley.

OL Reign, Washington Spirit, Racing Louisville, North Carolina Courage and NJ/NY Gotham FC all made managerial changes throughout the campaign.

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