Dames resigns after Red Stars’ NWSL final loss

Rory Dames has resigned as coach of the National Women’s Soccer League side Chicago Red Stars, less than 48 hours after the team’s appearance in the NWSL championship.

Dame’s exit on Sunday is the latest NWSL coaching change this year — nine so far — in a season that has been marked by turmoil. In a news release issued just before midnight local time Sunday, the Red Stars said Dames had stepped down and a search for a replacement would begin.

“Under Rory’s leadership we have been a remarkably consistent and excellent club on the field,” the 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.”

While the Red Stars did not specify the circumstances of Dames’ resignation, The Washington Post reported Monday that it was prompted by an investigation into his behavior. Players including U.S. national team star Christen Press had reported Dames to the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2018, according to the report.

“I think Rory emotionally abuses players,” Press wrote in a formal complaint seen by The Post. “He doesn’t have a safe distance between himself and his players. He uses his power and status as the coach to manipulate players and get close to them.”

Dames would be the fifth male coach ousted for alleged misconduct in what has been a long line of coaching changes this season in the NWSL. Of the NWSL’s 10 teams this season, only one has kept its coach for the entirety of 2021 so far: the Houston Dash with coach James Clarkson.

Dames, 48, led the Red Stars to the NWSL championship game on Saturday, falling 2-1 after extra time to the Washington Spirit.

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 2019 and 2021, and reached the final of the 2020 pandemic tournament called the Challenge Cup, losing all three.

“For 11 years, I have dedicated myself to help build the Chicago Red Stars into one of the top international clubs,” Dames said in Sunday’s release. “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.”

Sarah Spain, an ESPN commentator and radio host, has an ownership stake in the Red Stars.

Saturday’s NWSL championship game closed a tumultuous ninth season for the league. The Spirit played under an interim coach, Kris Ward, after Richie Burke was fired in September for violating the league’s anti-harassment policy.

Games were cancelled last month as players protested the handling of the allegations against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, and they set forth a list of demands via their union, the NWSL Players Association. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird resigned last month after striker Alex Morgan revealed that Baird declined to reinvestigate Riley.

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