Team Name: OL Reign
Head Coach: Farid Benstiti
Last Year’s Finish: 10-6-8, 4th overall (lost in semifinal against NC Courage)
Battling through injuries and national team call-ups, Vlatko Andonovski’s final season in Tacoma was marked by standout performances from NWSL Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer and goalkeeper Casey Murphy. The Reign narrowly made the playoffs ahead of the Washington Spirit, punching their ticket to a dance with the NC Courage in the league semifinal. Reign FC brought the Courage all the way to extra time, before conceding three goals to fall short of making the final.
Key Players In: Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Yuka Momiki, Shirley Cruz
Key Players Out: Megan Rapinoe (DNP), Steph Catley, Shea Groom, Bev Yanez
Player to Watch: Jess Fishlock (MID)
— NWSL (@NWSL) July 3, 2019
While OL Reign comes to Utah revamped and full of young talent, it’s the veteran Fishlock and her midfield creativity that should garner some attention this summer. A stalwart of the Reign midfield since her arrival in 2013, Fishlock is returning to action after an ACL tear she suffered five games into the 2019 campaign – one where she had three goals and an assist in merely five matches. With Megan Rapinoe absent, the Welsh international should be expected to step up for the OL Reign attack during the Challenge Cup.
Challenge Cup Outlook: There’s many big and exciting names that are expected to dazzle in OL Reign’s Challenge Cup campaign: Cook, Huerta, Momiki, Cruz, and the returning Fishlock and goalkeeper Michelle Betos. The question, ultimately, is new head coach Farid Benstiti and his ability to put these pieces together into a formidable challenge of the Thorns, Courage, and Red Stars without Rapinoe.