If you're like us, this is one of the hardest times of the year, as the NWSL season ended three months ago, and it doesn't start up again until April. Ugh, what a long offseason.
Luckily, the NWSL College Draft is just a few weeks away to keep us occupied. We also have this beautiful piece of art, created Down Under by Haley Kopmeyer (in reference to this Kim Little photo, which Reign players like to share at key moments throughout the year).
@hkopmeyer @jbeattie91 @kimlittle16 ... Think I found you .. ! pic.twitter.com/O4eL6hjoSr— Jessica Fishlock (@JessFishlock) December 29, 2015
If this isn't enough to hold you over, we're closing out the year by celebrating some of the best Seattle Reign moments. We've been blessed with a lot of great memories, so it was hard to winnow down the list. We couldn't even keep it under 10!
So, here are Ride of the Valkyries' 12 favorite Reign moments of 2015.
12. Reign sign internationals for 2016
With the departure of Stephanie Cox, Mariah Bullock, and Amber Brooks, we got a little bit of Laura Harvey magic this offseason: new international signings. The pull of playing for Harvey brought us Netherlands' all-time leading scorer Manon Melis, and versatile winger and left back Antonia Göransson. We're excited to see what they can do in 2016.
Welcome to @SeattleReignFC, Manon Melis! pic.twitter.com/R7g3tvzQuR— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) November 24, 2015
11. Reign newcomers make a big impact
Newcomers Merritt Mathias, Katrine Veje, Rachel Corsie, and Amber Brooks all had a significant impact in 2015. Mathias was often asked to do the thankless tasks, like opening up space for teammates and pressuring the back line. It didn't go unnoticed. Mathias was everywhere — contributing two goals and two assists, and creating a ton of chances for her teammates.
Corsie seamlessly adjusted to the centerback role alongside Lauren Barnes. Her skill on the ball and positioning helped the Reign defense allow just 21 goals in 20 matches. She was also a threat on set pieces, scoring two goals off corner kicks.
While neither will be back in 2016, Veje and Brooks also offered critical support to an extremely deep Reign squad.
10. Fishlock golazo from distance
Jess Fishlock had some beautiful goals this year. Eight of them, to be specific. But this volley from distance was our favorite. What a beauty! The goal helped propel the Reign to a 2-1 victory on the road to close out the regular season.
9. Back-to-back wins against Portand
While the NWSL is still a young league, Portland and Seattle are blossoming into an intense rivalry. That's why it felt particularly good to beat the Thorns in back-to-back matches. This Kim Little goal was all that was needed to defeat Portland on the road. Then, four days later, the Reign destroyed their rivals 3-0 in Seattle.
8. Reign draw with China
The Reign proved they could play with the best of them, as they drew 1-1 with China thanks to this Bev Yanez goal. The match was physical, back-and-forth, and the Reign dominated possession in the second half. Coach Harvey said it was "one of the best performances we have played with the ball. Ever." The 2016 season ticket package promises another international match, a sign of how well-respected the Reign and Harvey are around the world.
7. Rapinoe hattrick in Reign home opener
Sydney Leroux was looking for revenge after a surprise trade to the Western NY Flash. Seattle had other plans, and their home opener resulted in a 5-1 thrashing of Western NY, powered by a Megan Rapinoe hattrick. If we had to choose our favorite Rapinoe goal, it would be her final one. So pretty.
6. Laura Harvey named Coach of the Year
After leading the Reign to back-to-back NWSL Shield titles, Laura Harvey received Coach of the Year honors. As sidereal notes, it's not just the things she does week after week that are so impressive. Harvey has skillfully brought in players that fit the style of soccer she wants to play. Her reputation for combining tactical smarts with a positive team environment is why players like Kim Little took a pay cut to join the Reign.
5. Reign preserve home unbeaten streak
In their last regular season home match, it looked like the Reign's nearly two-season undefeated streak at Memorial Stadium was coming to an end. Then, in the 90th minute, while the torrential rain was blowing sideways, Little found Fishlock to tie the match 1-1 against Sky Blue FC. The Memorial undefeated streak remains as a result of this beautiful goal.
4. Houston, we have a (Little) problem
Seattle's match against the Houston Dash was delayed by a rainstorm that left the field with puddles that brought the ball to a dead stop. It looked like a 0-0 draw, or a fluke goal, was all Reign fans could hope for. Then, Kim Lethal took control, scoring all three Reign goals. Her first two were great, but her third was just ridiculous. In the 90th minute, with 22 tired legs on the field, Little beat two defenders with a perfect touch, then dribbled it across the box before chipping the ball into the goal. Yes, that's 1 v. 5, but when the 1 is Kim Little you don't bet on the defense.
3. Reign advance to the NWSL Final
The Reign dominated the Washington Spirit in the NWSL semifinal, but didn't get a goal until the 69th minute. Then, the floodgates opened, and the Reign went on to win 3-0 and advance to the NWSL final in Portland. We won't talk about the final. Instead, we'll remember the first and last goal Mariah Bullock scored as a Reign player (Bullock retired to pursue her PhD). It came in the 89th minute, and the reaction from the players and the bench was priceless. What a way to close out a career!
2. Hope and Rapinoe return as World Champs
While the Reign certainly missed Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe this summer, having them return as World Cup champions was such an honor. Solo was given the prestigious Golden Glove award for helping the U.S. allow just three goals in seven matches, while Rapinoe scored two goals and assisted two others and was named to the FIFA World Cup All Star team. We couldn't be more proud of our local heroes, and for those of us who got to witness the final in person, it was an indescribable moment.
1. Reign take home the NWSL shield ... again
After starting the season off 2-2-2, the Reign found their footing and went on to earn the NWSL Shield for the second straight season. Seattle's 43 points put them 10 clear of the second-place Chicago Red Stars. The Reign ended the season with a 13-3-4 record and a 20+ goal differential. In addition to their dominance, the locker room environment was the most cohesive and positive I've ever seen in a professional sports team.
This year's Reign team was special. We witnessed a season for the ages. Gosh, we are truly lucky fans.