The Seattle Reign, who are the 2014 and 2015 Shield winners in the NWSL will host their first match of the season as they look for a win against Sky Blue FC. The Reign faced the Blues as their first opponents last season as well, which resulted in a 2-1 loss for the Reign. During the season the two teams met again where the score resulted in a tie of 0-0. With their first season match approaching, much has taken place regarding their roster filled with players not returning due to retirement, new players exchanged in trades, updated contracts for returners, and the latest additions from the 2017 NWSL College Draft. The Reign have much potential with the mix of players to make improvement for this season and to come out even stronger to reach the top of possibly competing in the playoffs.
Highs and lows from the 2016 season
The Reign missed out on participating in the NWSL Playoffs once again for the third consecutive season. Their 2016 season resulted in eight wins, six losses, and six ties as they came out in fifth place from the season. Head coach and General Manager Laura Harvey re-signed with the team for a three-year contract last October. Although the Reign didn't have the season they had hoped, Harvey has made new additions that will greatly impact the season to makeup for he valuable players lost.
Some key players such as captain Keelin Winters, midfielder Kim Little, and defender Kendall Fletcher, just to name a few, will not be continuing for the 2017 NWSL season. Winters decided to end her professional career with the Reign at the end of last season as she planned to retire. The Reign, and the NWSL overall, said farewell to one of its greatest players as Little returned to play with the Arsenal FC Ladies in England. Fletcher departed from the Reign backline as she sought out to attend a ministry program in Sydney, Australia.
One of the most challenging matches for Seattle was when they faced the Orlando Pride last May. They took a 2-0 loss and weren't able to break through their defense to achieve a goal. Their tactics were off as the Pride had a 2-0 success and were able to keep the Reign from scoring.
Despite facing an unbreakable challenge, out of the eight victories, the Reign celebrated their 5-2 success against the Orlando Pride as well. This win brought back a renewed hope after a drought of not getting a shot to the back of the net. Even with the Pride scoring their own goal towards the end of the match, the Reign was intimidating as they seemed fearless and managed to score four goals within a season game. This comeback allows them to gain more confidence and work on their mistakes for future matches.
College Draft, trades, and updated contracts
While many significant players for Seattle will not be returning, the 2017 NWSL College Draft results were prosperous for the Reign as they recruited Maddie Bauer, Katie Johnson, Arielle Ship and Kristen McNabb. Not even two weeks after being chosen by Seattle from the draft, Ship was traded from the Seattle Reign to the Washington Spirit along with the third round pick for Seattle in the 2018 NWSL College Draft in exchange for Diana Matheson.
The Spirit made another trade with Seattle as they traded Christine Narin to the Reign in exchange for Havana Solaun and three draft picks, which include the number three and 36th picks in the 2017 NWSL draft. The Reign also signed with forward Larissa Crummer, defender Rebekah Stott, and goalkeeper Madalyn Schiffel.
Along with these new additions that will bring new techniques and a fresh atmosphere for the Reign, they also re-signed with some of their veteran players. Some of the Reign's key players that contribute to much of the season success as they diligently train include forward Beverly Yanez, Rachel Corsie, Merritt Mathias, Hayley Kopmeyer and Kiersten Dallstream. All of these players renewed their contracts and are guaranteed to continue with the Reign.
Expectations for 2017 NWSL season
As mentioned above, the Reign came out as the fifth placed team in the final 2016 rankings for the NWSL. Out of the nine other teams they competed amongst during their 20 game season, the Reign scored 29 goals and had 21 goals scored against them. Their season consisted of eight wins, but didn't result as successful as previous seasons. Many new faces are being added to the roster, which will hopefully allow for a season with more player variety as well as a consistent formation to improve from last season.
Due to the loss of Fletcher not returning, the new addition of adding Maddie Bauer from Stanford University to the backline will be beneficial as her defense tactics will be helpful in keeping a strong defense. Forward Katie Johnson, who was the No. 16 overall pick in the draft from USC will definitely make a huge impact for the Reign. Johnson scored two goals in the national title game and helped her team to reach the 2016 NCAA Championship.
While the possibilities of season outcomes vary, the Reign's roster lists players that seek for success and improvement. Some of these players are marking their first caps while others such as Megan Rapinoe are returning for their fifth season. Based on their roster that has a wide range of so many talented and skilled players, head coach Laura Harvey is wise in choosing her formations and seeing the player needs to fit those positions.
Record prediction (win-loss-tie): 16-4-4
Overall Placement: 2nd