2016 did not end the way Seattle Reign had envisioned during the off season of the National Women's Soccer League last year. The perennial playoff team finished in fifth place after a very uneven season, and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Pacific North-West club did start their offseason with what is seemingly the right direction by re-signing head coach Laura Harvey to a three year deal and from then on, began to add pieces to the team that they felt would help them win the NWSL Championship this season.
Long-time stalwarts depart the team
The offseason brought many changes for the Reign as they lost the services of captain Keelin Winters at the end of the 2016 season, veteran defender Kendall Fletcher and Dutch international Manon Melis all to retirement. These significant departures were also worsened as one of the league's best players, midfielder Kim Little, returned to England and Arsenal FC Ladies after the season ended. Lastly, the uncertainty regarding Hope Solo's future added on to the problems that Laura Harvey had to solve in the offseason and heading into the 2017 NWSL College Draft.
All of the above mentioned players were stalwarts for the Reign and part of the dominant versions of the team that were NWSL Shield winners for two years straight. Not only were their talents in each position going to be sorely missed by the Reign, but their experience in playing tough games or big games in any situation was something that Harvey knew she had to address in any possible before the start of the 2017 season.
Contract renewals and trades aplenty for Seattle
As Harvey is prone to do during the offseason, the Reign front office got to work in not only sealing up key players to contract extensions but also bringing in some new players that they felt would aid the team in the news season. Beverly Yanez, Rachel Corsie, Merritt Mathias, Hayley Kopmeyer and Kiersten Dallstream all renewed their contracts with the Reign while the Reign also picked up the services of Sinead Farrelly of the re-entry waivers list.
To go along with those contractual solutions, the Reign also brought in Christine Nairn and Diana Matheson from the Washington Spirit and signed forward Larissa Crummer, defender Rebekah Stott and goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel to their ranks. As of right now, both Crummer and Matheson are out with long-term injuries but the Reign seem content to wait for Crummer to recover from her injury and join up with the team later on in the season. As always, Harvey is surely not done with her signings so many expect news of more signings to come in soon especially now that Matheson has been ruled out for the season.
The draft gives the Reign some interesting pieces
This year's draft gave the Reign an opportunity to bring in potential replacements for the likes of Fletcher and Winters as they picked up Maddie Bauer, Katie Johnson, Arielle Ship and Kristen McNabb. Ship was then moved on to the Spirit that brought Matheson to Seattle but the three remaining draft picks could prove to be useful for the Reign this season.
Bauer is a well-known college prospect and her ball-playing abilities from the back is exactly what Harvey likes from her defenders. Johnson is a steady force at the top of the offense and could prove to be a capable understudy to Yanez. Johnson has also been called up to the full national team for Mexico so clearly, the potential is there for most to see. Lastly, McNabb was selected further down the draft list but Harvey believes that she could do a job for the Reign and could learn so much for the environment that the Reign have around their team. Not many believe that these young players will slot immediately into the first team but they can provide some much needed depth for what can sometimes be a grueling schedule in the NWSL.
Harvey extends her coaching resume in the US
Laura Harvey was also invited to coach the United States Women's National Team U23 side in the La Manga tournament this year and overall finished with a solid result, winning two of three games that the team played. The team started off well, winning against a very good Japan side before faltering against England in their second game. The last game of the tournament saw the return of winning ways against Norway and Harvey left Spain feeling upbeat about the team's performances there.
The roster featured many of the draft picks that will feature in the NWSL this year as well as Seattle's own Schiffel and McNabb as they were part of the squad this year. This allowed the two players to get an early feel of their new coach before preseason officially began. Harvey clearly has an affinity for coaching young players through her system as seen with the time she spends with the Reign's academy teams and this was just another opportunity for the coach to pick up a better view of how exactly the younger players in the US have come on since she first arrived in the country four years ago.
Current Seattle Reign FC Roster
Goalkeepers: Hayley Kopmeyer, Madalyn Schiffel.
Defenders: Lauren Barnes, Rachel Corsie, Merritt Mathias, Carson Picket , Ellie Reed, Rebekah Stott.
Midfielders: Lindsay Elston, Jessica Fishlock, Diana Matheson, Christine Nairn, Rumi Utsugi.
Forwards: Larissa Crummer, Kiersten Dallstream, Nahomi Kawasumi, Megan Rapinoe, Beverly Yanez.