Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
The Reign received arguably the best goalkeeper, the best midfielder, two solid Canadian internationals and a former Hermann Trophy winner. Does that overshadow who they didn't get?
Ever since the announcement that Seattle would have a team in the new NWSL, there seemed to be an assumption that Alex Morgan and several of her former Sounders Women teammates would be playing here.
As we all know by now, that's not exactly what happened. While the Seattle Reign ended up with two former Sounders Women, they weren't the two that most fans were pining for. The biggest loss was Morgan going to the Portland Thorns, but fellow fan favorites Sydney Leroux (Boston Breakers) and Veronica Perez (Western New York Flash) also ended up elsewhere.
That's not to belittle Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe -- they are both among the best players at their positions in the world -- but neither can be built around quite as readily as some of those other players. Solo seems to be quickly closing in on the post-playing part of her career, while Rapinoe is probably going miss close to two-thirds of the season while she's playing for Olympique Lyonnais in France.
This has all led to a sense of frustration, even if it's somewhat mixed. Somewhat fueling that frustration are some of the comments coming out of the Reign front office. GM Amy Carnell's first public reaction was to say she was "surprised" and her subsequent comments to the Seattle Times were something well short of fawning over her first players.
What's somewhat interesting is how this all contrasts to the way the national media has received the allocation. I can't pretend to be any kind of expert in the world of women's soccer, but I do have a pretty good sense of who is and almost universally they seem to think the Reign did pretty well. The Equalizer says the Reign's roster compares somewhat favorably to the Thorns'. Richard Farley of Pro Soccer Talk considers them one of the "winners." Beau Dure thinks "Seattle looks great."
Without knowing a whole lot about these players beyond what I can find on the internet, I can see why the experts think the Reign fared reasonably well. Both of their Canadian internationals are solidly in their prime and regular contributors on a very good team. Amy Rodriguez has, at times, been a very good scorer. Teresa Noyola won the Hermann Trophy while she was at Stanford in 2011 and is considered an up-and-coming player on the Mexican national team. Hope Solo, the off-field distractions aside, is still considered the best goalkeeper in the world by many. Megan Rapinoe is good enough that she could end up being the best player in the league once she joins the team sometime this summer.
Once it's all added up, I think most of the disappointment is really about not getting Morgan. I get that, I really do. I enjoyed having her on a team I covered. She was search-traffic gold and a pretty awesome player, to boot.
In the bigger context, it's pretty obvious we were working on faulty assumptions. Whether or not Morgan is just telling her new fans what they want to hear when she says Portland was her first choice, it wouldn't be that hard to believe. Morgan is a star in her own right and it was probably a little naive for us to assume that she'd want to play in Seattle just because her boyfriend, Servando Carrasco, is playing here. She has her own career to be worried about, and Portland has the most marketing muscle of any NWSL team (remember, the Portland Timbers are the only MLS club involved).
It will surely be painful to see Morgan's face plastered on billboards and display ads wearing the Portland crest, but it might be better for the league in the long run. The Thorns clearly have the biggest immediate upside of any team in terms of market, as they'll be playing at least some of their games in Jeld-Wen Field and have already taken deposits on almost 4,000 season tickets. The Reign may be able to compete at some point, but chances are they'll be playing at Starfire and are much more of a startup in comparison.
The Reign may not have received the allocation they wanted, but they ended up with plenty of talent and marketability. If owner Bill Predmore and GM Carnell are as good at their jobs as it seems, they should be just fine.