NWSL: Seattle Reign – 2017 Season Preview

After a year with a slow start and several hurdles, the Seattle Reign are looking forward to starting anew in 2017, with aspirations of a first NWSL title.

It is safe to say for all NWSL clubs that didn’t make the 2016 playoffs, that they are looking forward to a fresh start. That definitely holds true for the Seattle Reign who had a disappointing and distracting season. With a fresh influx of international and collegiate talent, the team look ready to push back into the postseason.

While enough of the core remains, it will take time to adjust to the loss of Kim Little and Keelin Winters. Additionally, even though Haley Kopmeyer has experience with the club for the past several years, the future of Hope Solo seems to not only be uncertain, but avoided.

With just days until Seattle’s home opener against Sky Blue FC on Saturday April 15, we review last season, look at the transfer activity, predict the starting day XI, and their outlook for 2017.

Last season

Record: 8-6-6 (30 points)

Finishing Position: 5th

Postseason: N/A

After winning the NWSL Shield in 2014 and 2015, the Reign never seemed to find their groove last season. Seattle was strong at home yet again, only losing twice at Memorial Stadium. However, during a seven match stretch over May and June, the team only had one victory, which ultimately created a deficit from the top teams that they were not able to recover from.

Injuries plagued the side, most notably Megan Rapinoe early on. The team was without her services along with Hope Solo for a middle portion of the season due to the Summer Olympics. Upon return, while the Solo controversy didn’t seem to distract the team’s results, it did remove their star keeper from action.

Even with the up and down results, the support only grew in Seattle. 2016 saw the club improve their average attendance by 13% and set a new total attendance record on the year. With coach and general manager Laura Harvey still at the helm, a strong, local sponsor in Microsoft, and the expansion of the academy the future looks bright for the Reign.

Players Out:

  • Keelin Winters (Retired)
  • Kim Little (Transfer to Arsenal)
  • Michelle Cruz (Waived)
  • Manon Melis (Retired)
  • Havana Solaun (Traded to the Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Tostanoski (Waived)
  • Kendall Fletcher (Retired)
  • Hope Solo (Not officially listed, but her absence is too large not to call out)

Players In:

  • Christine Nairn (Washington Spirit)
  • Madalyn Schiffel (Avaldsnes IL – Norway)
  • Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City)
  • Diana Matheson (Washington Spirit)
  • Larissa Crummer (Melbourne City)
  • Katie Johnson (Draft – USC)
  • Kristen McNabb (Draft – Virginia)
  • Maddie Bauer (Draft – Stanford)
  • Michaela Hahn (North Carolina Courage)

The team revealed these new bold kits on Tuesday night.

Predicted Staring XI for Opening Weekend

The Reign often play a very fluid formation with the attacking wingers, as well as having the fullbacks overlap. Although listed as a midfielder, Rumi Utsugi often played in the fullback role last year, linking up with Naho along the left flank.

The squad also has a number of internationals and/or players returning from injuries that will factor in once the team is fully fit. Yanez should get the start up top after looking to be in great form during the preseason.

2017 Predictions

Replacing Little, Winters and Solo is not an easy task. However, the Reign have brought in lots of international experience, alongside promising talent from the NWSL draft. Five members of the squad all played together, and won the W-League title, this past winter for Melbourne City. Having those connections, along with the large amount of returning players should see the Reign contending every time they step out onto the pitch.

With Rapinoe, Fishlock and Naho getting a full season together, Seattle has one of, if not the best midfield in the league. The defense appears just as strong as last year, when it once went a five match stretch without letting in a goal. 2017 should see the Reign back in the playoffs, challenging once again for their first NWSL title, and yet another increase in attendance at Memorial Stadium.

Prediction: 3rd Place

NWSL 2017 Team Previews