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Could Mallory Swanson return in 2023? Red Stars coach won’t rule it out

The Red Stars have a number of stars without contracts beyond this year, including Mallory Swanson. (Daniel Bartel/USA TODAY Sports)

Could Mallory Swanson return for the Chicago Red Stars in the 2023 NWSL season?

While acknowledging that it would be “a reach,” Red Stars head coach Chris Petrucelli wouldn’t rule her out when talking with reporters Thursday.

The 25-year-old forward tore the patellar tendon in her left knee during a U.S. women’s national team match in April. She has been sidelined since then, missing the World Cup for the USWNT and most of the season for Chicago.

An injury such as this one can take up to a year to heal, according to the Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital. And the Red Stars still have not established a firm timeline for their star forward, Petrucelli said.

“We’ve never put a timeline on Mal. And actually, we still haven’t discussed the timeline with her,” he said. “Obviously, we’re running out of games here.”

As of this week, Swanson is running on an antigravity treadmill, but she is not yet running on regular ground, per Petrucelli.

“So it may be a reach for her to be back in time, but again, I’m not ready to put a timeline on that, and we’ll see where we go,” he said. “I think probably the next two or three weeks will give us a real indication of where Mal will be.”

The Red Stars have five matches left in the 22-match regular season, and they sit at the bottom of the 12-team league table with 17 points. Swanson’s Red Stars contract expires at the end of the season, and she will enter the offseason as a free agent.

In July, Swanson posted an update to her Instagram account. “First touches in three months,” read the caption, accompanied by a video of her getting touches on the ball with a member of the Red Stars training staff.

“I don’t have downtime. It is all rehab, just focusing on that,” she told Just Women’s Sports just a few days later. “I’ve learned that it’s just a process, and yeah, I think that you can just enjoy it. As much as it might not be fun, I think that there’s still so much positive that you can get out of it.”