Chicago Red Stars name new coach after abuse scandal

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After allegations of emotional abuse and sexual misconduct from their previous coach, the Chicago Red Stars are moving on.

The Red Stars have hired long-time college coach Chris Petrucelli as their new head coach, the club announced on Friday.

Petrucelli, 59, coached Southern Methodist University for nine seasons, and before that he spent 13 seasons at the helm of the University of Texas.

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"We are excited to start a new chapter for the club with Chris as our head coach. The importance of this hire is immeasurable," said Vicky Lynch, the Red Stars' chief business officer.

"That is why I am incredibly proud that several of our players played an integral role as key members of the search committee."

The club's last coach, Rory Dames, resigned in November within 48 hours of leading the Red Stars to an NWSL Championship due to allegations of abuse from players.

A report from the Washington Post, which prompted Dames' resignation, included both new accounts from current players in the National Women's Soccer League, as well as details of a formal complaint striker Christen Press filed to the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2018.

Last week, the Washington Post uncovered more abuse from Dames: as a youth coach, he allegedly groomed teenagers for sex and one player filed a police report about his behavior in 1998.

In response, several veterans on the U.S. women's national team -- including Press -- issued a letter accusing U.S. Soccer, which managed the NWSL, of "willful inaction" and having "stood by as abuse continued to occur unchecked."

Red Stars lead owner Arnim Whisler issued an apology in response to the report in which he vowed to "to be accountable for what happens in the club." In hiring Petrucelli as their new coach, the Red Stars said its search committee included players on the team and a sports psychologist, along with assistant coaches and club owners.

The Red Stars received interest from "over two dozen high qualified and diverse candidates," the club said, and the search committee developed a shortlist to interview.

"Being graced with the opportunity to work with some of the best players in the world is a position any coach would jump at," Petrucelli said in a statement.

"I know there's work to do. I'm excited to get started helping the team accomplish their goals while fostering an environment of joy and positivity." Petrucelli has compiled a 427-182-54 record over 31 years in college soccer, giving him the seventh-highest winning percentage among Division I coaches, according to the Red Stars.

Petrucelli has also coached the under-21 and under-19 U.S. women's national teams and since 2013 he has served as a scout for U.S. Soccer.

The NWSL's 10th season begins next month with the Challenge Cup. The Red Stars' first game is set for March 20 when they head to Houston to face the Dash.