Each day leading up to the start of the season, we’ll take a look at what 2017 has in store for two teams.
Wednesday: Seattle Reign FC and Sky Blue FC
Thursday: Washington Spirit and North Carolina Courage
Friday: Portland Thorns FC and Orlando Pride
Despite falling short of their elevated standards last season, the Seattle Reign just narrowly missed out on making the NWSL Playoffs for the third consecutive season. Coach Laura Harvey’s team were dependable in so many areas of the game in 2016 – including trailing for the fewest number of minutes in the league – it was hard to understand how they didn’t make it back to the postseason. One area where the club will need to improve is on the road – where they had the seventh best record in the league. Can they prove 2016 was just a blip?
2016 totals (with rank)
Overall record: 8-6-6, 30 pts (5th place)
Goals for: 29 (tied for 4th)
Goals against: 21 (tied for 4th)
Home record: 6-2-2 (3rd place)
Away record: 2-4-4 (7th place)
Jess Fishlock (Goal, 4 assists)
Haley Kopmeyer (1.18 GAA, 41 saves)
Lauren Barnes (20 appearances, 1,775 minutes)
Beverly Yanez (3 goals, 3 assists)
Few players in the four-year history of the league can rival the NWSL career midfield Jess Fishlock has put together. The Wales international earned NWSL Best XI honors in each of her first three seasons before being voted to the NWSL Second XI in 2016 and will be targeting more postseason honors with the Reign in 2017.
Fishlock spent the offseason on loan with Melbourne City FC and actually took over as player coach midway through the season before leading the Australian club to their second consecutive Westfield W-League championship.
The midfield standout will be eager to go for a personal double as she looks to bring an NWSL title to Seattle after helping the club reach the NWSL Championship Game in 2014 and 2015.
The Reign will also bring back 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year Lauren Barnes, who became the first player in the history of the league other than U.S. international Becky Sauerbrunn to win the award. Goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer and forward Beverly Yanez also return for a Seattle team hoping to bounce back from an off year in 2016.
Christine Nairn (3 goals, 3 assists)
Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City FC)
Midfielder Christine Nairn returns to the club that drafted her back in 2013 after spending three seasons with the Washington Spirit as coach Laura Harvey quickly addressed the hole left by the departure of 2014 NWSL MVP Kim Little to Arsenal Ladies FC.
Ironically, it was Nairn who was sent to the Spirit in the Nov. 2013 deal that brought Little to Seattle and now the former No. 7 overall selection has been brought back to the Reign to fill the void left by the Scotland international.
Nairn had three goals and five assists during her rookie campaign with Seattle in 2013 and a similar performance in 2017 would go a long way toward seeing the Reign return to the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time in three years last year.
Harvey also added New Zealand international defender Rebekah Stott, who comes to Seattle after helping Melbourne City FC win the 2017 Westfield W-League championship in Australia.
Round 1, No. 6 overall: Maddie Bauer (D, Stanford)
Round 2, No. 16 overall: Katie Johnson (F, USC)
Round 3, No. 26 overall: Arielle Ship (F/M, CAL)
Round 4, No. 37 overall: Kristen McNabb (D, Virginia)
The Reign dealt No. 26 overall selection and U-23 U.S. international Arielle Shipp to the Washington Spirit in exchange for midfielder Diana Matheson only for the Canada international to go down with a season-ending injury while training with her national team in late February.
As a result, Seattle will look to No. 6 overall selection Maddie Bauer and No. 16 overall pick Katie Johnson to make an impact in their rookie campaigns. Bauer helped lead Stanford to the 2016 Pac-12 title, while Johnson helped conference rivals USC claim the 2016 NCAA championship – scoring twice in the national title game.
Coach Laura Harvey was so eager to get Johnson she traded away Seattle’s first-round pick in 2018 to the Chicago Red Stars in order to secure her services.