Seattle Reign FC ready for second NWSL season
Reign FC, after a wild offseason, looks to be one of the NWSL teams to beat heading into Sunday’s opener at home against Boston.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Boston @ Seattle Reign FC, 4 p.m., Memorial Stadium
GK Hope Solo: Richland native and UW product
F Sydney Leroux: Big offseason trade acquisition
F/M Megan Rapinoe: Available all year after missing half of ’13
D Stephanie Cox: Newly named U.S. allocated player
M Jess Fishlock: Best XI selection last season
F/M Nahomi Kawasumi: Dynamic Japanese international
F/M Kim Little: Newcomer from Arsenal Ladies
The website is a gag rooted in truth: HasLauraHarveyMadeATradeToday.com.
Indeed, to call Reign FC’s offseason “eventful” hardly begins to describe the past few months, as general manager and coach Laura Harvey has vastly overhauled Seattle’s roster ahead of its second season in the National Women’s Soccer League. At one point, the team had a semiformal transaction week, with at least one move announced each day Feb. 10 through 14.
The frenzy led to the “Has Laura Harvey Made a Trade Today?” slogan, which became a popular hashtag on social media leaguewide, the inspiration for a T-shirt, and, of course, a website — one that has just said “No” for the past couple weeks.
With Year 2 set to begin Sunday in a 4 p.m. home game against the Boston Breakers, one thing is for certain. This is not last season’s Reign, a team that started 0-9-1 as a brand-new franchise and didn’t record a single shutout en route to a next-to-last-place finish.
“I think we have a roster that people will talk about,” Harvey said.
Around the NWSL, it’s a roster that people can’t stop talking about, both with top-end talent and quality depth following the offseason additions of U.S. national team star Sydney Leroux, Japanese standout Nahomi Kawasumi and Arsenal’s Kim Little, among others.
Seattle, after missing the playoffs last year at 5-14-3, has become one of the league favorites, and a lot of that is credit to the work of Harvey. Players have marveled at the work in pursuit of building the Reign into a world-class women’s club.
“I feel huge loyalty to Laura,” said midfielder Keelin Winters, who has been in the U.S. national team pool, “and I can’t say that I’ve had that for a coach in years, truthfully.”
So what else is different about this year? Plenty.
The Reign has its own home having moved from Starfire Stadium in Tukwila to Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center, a storied venue rooted with soccer history as a former home of the Sounders of the North American Soccer League and United Soccer Leagues.
The organization looks to be on steadier footing, having graduated from first-year startup, and the staff has grown.
Perhaps most important, the Reign will be essentially at full strength Sunday. For those who have forgotten, perhaps by choice, Seattle was without its U.S. internationals at the start of last season.
Hope Solo, a former University of Washington star from Richland, was recovering from wrist surgery. Megan Rapinoe was on loan with France’s Lyon. Amy Rodriguez missed the year while starting a family. And those personnel woes were at the core of a 10-game winless streak.
This year, Seattle’s full complement of four U.S. allocated players — Solo, Rapinoe, Leroux and Stephanie Cox — will be available from the first kick.
“It’s huge,” Harvey said. “I think the experience and talent of the players we had missing last year was a huge factor, which I definitely didn’t take to heart before the season started. ... It made our job 10 times harder.”
One wild offseason later and the Reign looks to be one of the NWSL teams to beat.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.