The running joke about the Seattle Reign this offseason has generally centered on boss Laura Harvey’s transformation into wheeler-dealer, remaking a roster which proved deficient for most of last season. While the turnover for the roster has been both dramatic and aggressive, the changes have largely been centered on the offensive side of the ball. Four offensive additions have come in, including Sydney Leroux and Kim Little, while the defense has gotten a fraction of the attention. Mariah Nogueira counts to an extent as a defensive midfielder, but the only other defensively oriented move coming into the draft was swapping out Kaylyn Kyle for Carmelina Moscato, a move that most would argue doesn’t do enough to rectify last season’s woeful defensive issues.
It was hardly a surprise then that the Reign cast their eye towards picking up some defensive help from this year’s stacked draft class. Harvey and co. were likely holding their breath through the first six picks, as Amanda Frisbie looked like the last sure thing at center-back, though given her technical skill and athleticism, she might end up at full-back. Megan Brigman’s far less of a sure thing and was a surprise in the second round but has pace and a little bit of size, so she’ll at least get a chance to stick.
Local player Ellen Parker was another from the Portland Pilots but may face an uphill battle to stick on the final roster given the glut in numbers in the midfield. Parker does offer more of a playmaking perspective from midfield though, as opposed to the directness of many of Seattle’s veteran midfielders. Regardless, Harvey and Reign fans have to be hoping for a better return from this year’s class, with zero of last year’s picks set to begin the season on the club’s roster.
7 – Amanda Frisbie – D – Portland
Frisbie was this season’s big mover in terms of draft stock after a star turn at center-back for Portland as a senior. She had already impressed with the Pilots a year earlier in an attacking role but took to her new role in defense like a glove despite having not specialized as a defender previously. She won WCC Defensive Player of the Year honors and generally looked like one of the nation’s very best defenders. I don’t think her usage stats from her junior season, her best as an attacker, indicate a move back into the attack is necessarily in the cards. She’s still got tons of upside as a defender after having played just a season there, and the Reign need a ton of help defensively. I think the biggest question may be whether Frisbie features as a center-back or makes the shift to full-back. She’s certainly got the attacking instincts for the latter. Either way, I think she becomes this team’s defensive anchor sooner rather than later.
17 – Megan Brigman – D – North Carolina
One-time walk-on was a spectacular success with UNC, making the move from attack to defense earlier in her career. Was an iron woman for the Tar Heels for the better part of three seasons as the defense shifted around her. Has the raw athleticism and the stamina to, at the very least, get a very long look and certainly landed in a very good situation with the Reign in desperate need of defensive help. A danger on set pieces as five goals in 2011 shows, while she also had a team leading seven assists for the Tar Heels during her senior season. Broken leg that cost her almost all of 2012 is worrisome, though she led UNC in minutes by a fair distance this season, so those fears may be overblown. The Tar Heels generally do a lot better at producing pro level full-backs than center-backs (Whitney Engen being the big exception), but Brigman may well end up wide at any rate given her athleticism. No matter where she’s penciled in, there are spots waiting to be won in the Reign backline, so she should get a chance at least. I don’t quite think she’s the finished product, which makes this a bit of a reach in my eyes, but it would hardly be the first time that Brigman’s proved doubters wrong.
30 – Ellen Parker – MF – Portland
Late bloomer really needed a strong senior season to get herself back on the map after a quiet career and injury hit junior season that limited her to just seven matches in 2012. She got that big season and then some, turning into one of the region’s top central midfielders for the Pilots. Not going to be as explosive a threat as some of Seattle’s other midfielders, but Parker’s got great field vision and cultured feet when she does get within sight of goal. Her usage rates as a senior actually were a lot better than you’d expect for a playmaking midfielder which certainly should hurt her odds of sticking. The big question is if there’s a place for her on a roster that looks utterly stacked with midfielders. The Reign’s roster isn’t as bloated on paper as some of their rivals’ though, so Parker may just have a decent chance of sticking around despite being a fourth-round pick.