* = confirmed signed for 2015
(parentheses) = Potentially absent for Women’s World Cup
In A Nutshell
The Reign will be looking to avoid the hangover that struck the Flash after losing in the final in 2013 and look well poised to do it. The defense and midfield that played so well for the entirety of the season return intact and should be able to pounce on opponents’ weaknesses mid-season during the WWC. Re-signing Beverly Yanez was key to the frontline during the WWC, but how much will the Reign miss Naho? There aren’t any glaring weaknesses here, meaning Seattle will likely be drafting for depth on Friday.
Biggest Needs: WF, CF, backup GK, CM depth, RB/CB depth
GK – *Kopmeyer, (*Solo)
The Reign are in the same boat as most of the rest of the league, likely to be heavily dependent on their backup keeper for most of the year. Hope Solo is the only USWNT GK assured of a roster spot for the WWC, and her legal issues aren’t going to make things any less complicated if things aren’t settled by the start of the season. There’s no questioning Solo’s ability though, and if she’s there and in the right frame of mind, she gives the Reign a major advantage between the sticks.
Solo’s absence for international duty puts the pressure on third-year keeper Haley Kopmeyer. Kopmeyer’s been the understudy for two seasons and will finally get an extended chance to shine in 2015. She’s looked raw but capable in her limited minutes thus far and will have a chance to take a big step forward this season. There’s a good chance the Reign will bring in some additional competition though, as they at least need some cover with Solo being gone for so much of the season.
DEF – *Barnes, *Brigman, *Cox, *Fletcher, *Frisbie, *Hein, *Reed, *Cruz
The Reign’s defense rose to the forefront in 2014, turning into a strong unit that helped propel the club to a regular season title. Though there weren’t any superstar contributors on paper going into last season, the group coalesced brilliantly to turn into a unit that ended up being far more than just the sum of its parts. The decision to sign Kendall Fletcher may have been one of the season’s most important, as she combined with Lauren Barnes to form a fantastic center-back partnership. Barnes, a one-time WPS draft bust, is now tapping into her vast potential and can play as a full-back as well if needed.
She probably won’t be if all goes to plan, as the evergreen Stephanie Cox and Elli Reed return out wide for the Reign. Cox proved she still has plenty in the tank with a nice comeback season last year, though the veteran seems to have faded from the USWNT picture. Reed is trying to claw her way back into it after a stuttering start to her pro career and can continue to make progress with seasons like last year’s.
The good news is that last year’s starting back four should be here all season without WWC interruption, but the bad news is that the depth, while copious in numbers, is unproven for the most part. First-round pick Amanda Frisbie missed all of last season with injury and may be needed in attack, while Megan Brigman barely played for the club after making it the opening day roster. Holly Hein was signed late in the season from Houston, while the club added Michelle Cruz in the offseason. It’s a young group to say the least, but Laura Harvey may want to add another draft pick or two to push the returnees for their roster spots.
MF – *Fishlock, *Little, *Nogueira, *Winters, *Mathias
There’s honestly not much to speak about in this zone of the pitch. The Reign had a wrecking machine in the middle of the park with league MVP Kim Little, Jess Fishlock, and Keelin Winters forming a deadly trio. With Scotland and Wales both missing out on the WWC, Little and Fishlock should be with the Reign for all of the season, bar any games their nations may schedule on international dates. Winters got a call into the U.S. U23-ish squad in January but remains a real longshot to make the squad at this juncture. Mariah Nogueira is an effective stopper at defensive midfielder to help close games out and would start for a few teams in the league right now.
The only addition was that of Merritt Mathias, acquired in a trade from FC Kansas City. She’ll probably contend for a starting spot on the wing and may be a prime contender to hold down the fort on the flanks with Naho gone and Megan Rapinoe occupied with USWNT duties.
Seattle’s a deep team, with this looking like the deepest unit. Could they use another body for the end of the bench? Perhaps, but that might be through a camp invitee instead of a draft pick.
FW – *Dallstream, *Foxhoven, (*Leroux), (*Rapinoe), *Yanez
You can only be so concerned when you’ve got the league MVP returning in midfield, along with her deluge of goals from last season, but it’s still pretty concerning up top for the Reign, especially when Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe will be away on international duty. Leroux, by most accounts, was a disappointment in her first season with the club, goal shy and outshines by Little and Naho in the attack. Rapinoe has struggled with injury in two NWSL seasons but has looked deadly when fit and on form. With all the pieces here, Seattle still looks dangerous.
But all the pieces from last year don’t look to be back. Naho doesn’t figure to be back considering the WWC schedule, which is a big blow for the Reign, as the Japanese winger was a revelation for them last season. Beverly Yanez has re-signed with the club late, which is a big boost. The veteran won’t be a star at this level but is more than able to lead the line when asked to and should keep the club ticking over without Leroux and Rapinoe.
With Leroux and Rapinoe gone, the options on the ground are sparse other than Yanez. Danielle Foxhoven didn’t show much upon her arrival from the Thorns and had one shot on goal all season. Her roster spot might be in question if the Reign had other options in the attack. Kiersten Dallstream looks to be back in the frame for attack but was similarly muted last season, not scoring. Mathias could also see action on the wing, though if the club is leaning on her for consistent goals, Seattle’s in trouble.
The Reign should be fine at full strength, but there’s clearly a need for some additional options when they aren’t, though Yanez’s re-signing has eased the pressure