Tiffany Cameron – F
Scored twenty-one goals, including a DI leading nine game winners, in 2012 but was left unallocated by Canadian WNT head coach John Herdman and then undrafted in the rookie draft. Go figure. Newly minted full Canadian international isn’t likely to stay unfunded long if she can replicate any degree of her scoring form with Ohio State as a senior this past year. Had only scored nineteen goals combined in three previous years, perhaps fueling fears that she might be a one-hit wonder, but arguing against someone coming off a twenty-one goal season is pretty hard. Possesses excellent pace and showed no end of cool finishing ability in 2012, with numerous calm finishes in different situations for the Buckeyes. Reign need goal scorers and they need them badly, meaning Cameron will likely get every opportunity to impress as a starter right from the beginning for the Pacific Northwest side.
Kate Deines – D/M
Hometown heroine was a natural pick to stay in Seattle and suit up for the hometown Reign after a storied collegiate career at Washington and a stint with the Sounders Women last year following the collapse of WPS. Was a consistent source of offense in college as the heartbeat of the Huskies, finishing with twenty-one goals despite being a defense-first midfielder in many regards. Has been more of a presence on the backline at center-back at the next level, including at U.S. U23 level. Would probably be best suited as a rock in the midfield for the Reign until the club gets some of its depth back from Europe mid-season, but the club is also in dire need of some capable performers in the middle of the defense as well. Whether the club can convince Nikki Krzysik to play for them could well dictate where Deines suits up for the Reign this season.
Jess Fishlock – M
Signing of Welsh WNT captain could be seen as a major coup for both the Reign and the fledgling NWSL in general. A well traveled figure in recent years, Fishlock has featured abroad in Australia and Holland in addition to England, and Seattle will surely be hoping that some of her continental class rubs off on a squad that could be packed with inexperienced youngsters. In the short-term, Fishlock could be just what the doctor ordered in midfield, as the Reign have to figure out how they’ll make do without Megan Rapinoe and Teresa Noyola early in the season. Considering there’s a dearth of proven talent at this level in both the midfield and attack, at least until Rapinoe returns, Fishlock really might find herself suiting up anywhere in the midfield or attack this season. A smooth transition to the American game could be vital for the Reign’s postseason hopes this year.
Elli Reed – D
After a stuttering start to her professional career, Reed has turned into a creditable pro heading into the 2013 campaign with the Reign. A high draft pick by Western New York in 2011, Reed was given the ax early by the eventual WPS champs but avoided too much ignominy by signing with Boston straight away and playing well for the Breakers in both WPS and WPSL Elite a season later. Joined up with Duisburg for the 2012/13 Frauen Bundesliga campaign but became another victim of the club’s financial woes after the New Year. The likely starter on the left in defense, Reed suddenly in all likelihood finds herself as one of the steadier options in defense for the Reign this season despite still being just twenty-three years of age. Given questions elsewhere, Reed may well have to excel for this defense to stand a chance of putting the brakes on opposing attackers this year.
Lindsay Taylor – F
Looked to be set for potential WPS stardom after playing a major part in Stanford’s 2011 national title triumph…then the league collapsed. While many caught on with WPSL Elite or W-League teams if they didn’t go abroad, Taylor was left to toil with Norwegian side Arna-Bjornar. Back stateside, Taylor will have the responsibility of helping lead what looks like one of the league’s shakiest offenses on paper. Though her top level experience as a pro is sparse, Taylor nonetheless finds herself as one of the likeliest candidates to take up the mantle of attacking leader for the Reign. Taylor was a constant threat to stretch play out wide on the left wing or give center-backs a torrid time with her pace more centrally. The Card alum could feature in the former role until Megan Rapinoe returns, whereupon she could take up the task of leading the line. Possessor of a monstrously powerful shot, Taylor will be hoping her domestic pro debut is worth the wait as she tries to lead Seattle up the table.
2. Nikki Krzysik – D
Seattle’s hopes certainly took a hit once Krzysik signed to play in San Diego in the WPSL. Though the Reign were obviously confident of inking the former Philadelphia Independence captain since they took her with their first supplemental draft pick, Krzysik would not be swayed, leaving the Reign with egg on their face. It’s easy to see why Seattle was likely desperate to get Krzysik on board. The Virginia alum turned into one of WPS’ top defenders with Philadelphia, proving to be a rock at the back for the title challenging Independence. With so little in the way of proven quality at this level in defense on Seattle’s roster, getting Krzysik to anchor this backline would have been a massive boost for a club that may struggle to score goals this year.
10. Lauren Barnes – D
Was another in a long line of rookie draft busts for Philadelphia in WPS but aiming to make the most of a second chance in Seattle. Can play on the left or in the middle but may not be big enough to feature at center-back at this level. A threat to rampage up the line and chip in with the occasional goal or two, Barnes was an assist machine at college level, due in no small part to her immaculate set piece delivery from both long-range and short-range. It’s difficult envisioning her beating out Elli Reed at left-back, and as stated above, she’s probably too small to play center-back at this level. However, given the Reign’s seeming dearth of options at right-back, Barnes could well hammer out a spot for herself if she could potentially make a transition to the opposite side of the pitch.
18. Laura Heyboer – F
Another in a long line of contenders that will be vying for starting spots up front for the Reign this season. Heyboer was a freshman phenom for Michigan State in college but had her college career interrupted by a nasty double leg break and didn’t really hit her stride again until a strong senior season. She’d find a home after the end of WPS with Western New York, though she was, in the end, greatly overshadowed up front by the likes of Spanish goalgetter Adriana. Had the titanium rods and screws, which were causing pain last season, removed early in the year, which should allow Heyboer to approach her potential again. With little assured in the Reign’s offense this year, Heyboer could well seal a starting spot for herself if she impresses early for the Seattle club.
26. Liz Bogus – F/D
Likely one of the most experienced players on this roster come Opening Day, Seattle will likely need more than just leadership from Bogus this season if they’re to contend for a postseason spot. After drifting around the semi-pro ranks after graduating from Arizona State, Bogus carved out a spot in WPS with both Los Angeles and later Boston following the Sol’s collapse. She’d hook back up with former club Pali last year and looks set to stay on the West Coast this year with the Reign. Capable of doing a job just about anywhere on the pitch, it remains to be seen where head coach Laura Harvey deploys the veteran Bogus this year. The club will likely be shuffling attackers early on to try and find a potent combination that works up top, but there are also pressing needs in defense, especially on the right side. Given Bogus’ attacking proclivities, she might just find a niche there as a starter this season.
34. Michelle Betos – GK
Reign likely got great value this deep in the supplemental draft with a solid netminding veteran in Betos. After being criminally underrated in college with Georgia, Betos starred for the W-League’s Atlanta Silverbacks, winning league Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2009. It’s been an expansive journey since, with stops with the New York Fury, Argentina’s River Plate, and Cypriot Champions League side Apollon Limassol. Commanding of her area and an excellent shot stopper, Betos will likely be first in line for starting minutes should Hope Solo’s wrist injury keep her out early in the NWSL season, though the New York native will also be battling rookie Haley Kopmeyer for the role.
42. Kaley Fountain – D/F
Seattle took a flyer with their final supplemental draft pick, selecting Fountain, who bounced around three WPS teams as a reserve before sticking with Western New York and picking up a winner’s medal in 2011. The gamble doesn’t appear to have paid off though, as Fountain indicated shortly after the draft that she wouldn’t be playing in the league in 2013. It’s a shame for the Reign, as the versatile Fountain has shown an ability to suit up anywhere on the pitch, which would’ve been a big asset for a club that looks stretched on depth on paper.
Lyndsey Patterson – M/F
Signing of local stalwart Patterson doesn’t exactly come as a giant surprise considering she’s been a contributor for the Seattle Sounders’ Women outfit for some time in between stints in WPS. Likely to be one of the club’s most experienced players should she make the final roster, Patterson’s years could be vital with a squad which could face some serious growing pains. Had disruptive speed in her prime, but might be best suited for a super sub role to run at tired legs for the Reign. A fiery competitor who plays much bigger than her 5’2″ frame. Will be looking to make an impression at last at the top level after some unremarkable stints with Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Atlanta in WPS.
What They Still Need
One hell of a gameplan. There are questions all over the field, and Harvey’s going to have to do a great coaching job to mask some of the club’s deficiencies, especially early in the season, when they’ll be without Solo and Rapinoe through injury and international commitments. The club should still be fine in the short-term in goal if Hope Solo’s wrist injury recovery lasts longer than expected. The bigger questions come on the backline playing in front of her. Eli Reed on the left and Emily Zurrer in the middle probably go right into the starting lineup, but the lack of depth is pretty glaring. Kate Deines probably moves back to center-back, but the club still has plenty of questions on the backline. The right-back spot looks like the club’s biggest question. Who plays there? Does Reed make the switch with Lauren Barnes coming in on the left? Does Barnes make a switch? Maybe Liz Bogus or Jess Fishlock? The latter seems more likely to feature further up front until the club gets Megan Rapinoe back though.
Until Rapinoe returns, it’ll likely be up to Christine Nairn or perhaps Fishlock to provide creativity. You could easily shoehorn Seattle into a 4-4-2 with Fishlock wide left and Kaylyn Kyle wide right and Nairn as the playmaker, but Rapinoe’s talents are probably best used wide left in a 4-3-3, especially on a club featuring little proven offensive thrust like Seattle. It’s unlikely Harvey will want to change formations mid-season with such a young squad, so she might depend on 4-3-3 throughout. A danger, of course, is if neither Nairn or Noyola proves up to this level or if playing both in the same formation becomes a defensive liability. In that case, one (or both) could be sacrificed for a runner like Kyle. Given all the above, Reign fans probably don’t want to hear that their frontline is almost definitively young and unproven at this level. It is.
Given all the uncertainty, the Reign certainly present one of the more intriguing tactical puzzles of the new league. It will be interesting to see how Harvey puts together all the pieces, though you wouldn’t bet on Seattle as a favorite for the playoff places at the moment.