After an excruciatingly long offseason, Seattle Reign FC hosted its first day of preseason training camp on Monday. At total of 27 players are expected to participate.
This season's camp is a mix of veteran Reign players, new international signings, and young talent being given the opportunity to make one of the final Reign FC roster spots. NWSL teams can have up to 20 players on their active roster. Without counting draft selections, the Reign are currently at 17, and Coach Laura Harvey still has one international spot available.
Fifteen players, including 10 starters, return from the 2015 Reign FC squad. Missing this year are defender Stephanie Cox, forward Dani Foxhoven and midfielder Mariah Bullock, who all retired in the offseason. Amber Brooks was traded to the Houston Dash, and Katrine Veje returned home to Denmark.
Little and Fishlock led Melbourne City FC to a 12-0-0 season and the W-League title, while Kopmeyer nearly denied them a trip to the championship after having a show-stopping performance for Brisbane Roar in the semifinals.
Hope Solo has spent much of the offseason traveling with the U.S. Women's National Team, who once again qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Meanwhile, Lauren Barnes was called into the USWNT training camp for the SheBelieves Cup, while Megan Rapinoe is recovering from a torn ACL that occurred during the USWNT World Cup Victory Tour in December.
After missing all of last season with a broken ankle, Reign midfielder Havana Solaun has made multiple appearances on the USWNT U-23 team. She is a tall, technically strong player who should get some significant minutes this year.
Also at preseason camp are Seattle Reign FC's newest signings, Antonia Göransson and Manon Melis.
Göransson comes from Sweden, where she most recently played with Vittsjö GIK of the Swedish Damallsvenskan. While she has primarily played left back or left midfield, she is equally as strong on the right and has seen some time on the Swedish national team.
Melis is a forward with over 100 caps for the Netherlands. She brings a ton of pace and a knack for finding the back of the net. Melis has scored 124 goals in 166 appearances for her club teams, and 59 goals in 135 appearances for the Netherlands.
Reign FC draft picks Carson Pickett, Paige Nielsen, and Lindsey Luke have also been called into training camp.
Widely considered one of the best outside backs in college, Pickett is a solid two-way player who racked up 22 assists in her last two collegiate seasons. She'll be fighting for the starting left back position left vacant due to Steph Cox's retirement.
Nielsen is an attacker that was converted to center back her senior year, giving her comfort on the ball that Harvey likes to see in her defenders, while Luke has been touted as one of the top two goalkeepers in this year's NWSL draft. With the Reign waving Caroline Stanley this offseason (Stanley went on to sign with Sky Blue), Luke should fill in as the third goalkeeper.
Youth national team standout Summer Green was also drafted, but is not in camp because of an ACL injury.
Seven players have been brought in to trial with the Reign. Even if they don't make the 20-player roster, any of these seven players could get a look during the Olympics or if the Reign lose any players to injury (knock on wood).
- Andi Tostanoski was Santa Clara's starting keeper for four years, earning WCC Goalkeeper of the Year honors.
- Kelly Beck is a Seattle University centerback who scored two goals and earned First Team WAC honors her senior year. At 5' 9" she is a threat in the air on set pieces.
- Morgan Batcheller is another central defender who Top Drawer Soccer ranked as the sixth best player in the Big West. Batcheller was considered a potential sleeper pick in the draft, but didn't get selected.
- Kate Bennett is a 2015 graduate from UW who plays attacking midfield and has a pretty lethal strike from distance. She was a trialist with the Portland Thorns last year.
- Lindsay Elston was a UW midfielder who was at her best when she wasn't being asked to carry the offense on her back. Elston played on the U-18 and U-20 national teams and had five appearances with the Houston Dash in 2014.
- Erica Shelton is a midfielder who ended her college career at CSU Bakersfield, scoring four goals and earning five assists her senior year.
- Rebecca Candler is a forward from Indiana University who graduated in 2014, scoring nine goals and assisting on 19 in her final two college seasons.
After a week of training, the Reign will travel to Portland for a week-long tournament at Providence Park, where the team will face Oregon State University, Houston Dash, and the Portland Thorns.
Seattle wraps up preseason play with its annual Community Shield Match , a benefit for Seattle Public Schools , against the University of Washington on Saturday, April 9. Tickets are free, although you'll still need to secure one online to get in.
"We can say that we want to play great football and win the Shield, and that we want to just win as many games as we can," said Jess Fishlock in a Reign press release. "The reality of it is that we want that championship. I have no doubt that this season is the season. We just want it. We want to win. We want to win the whole damn thing."
Let's do this.
Full 2016 Reign Pre-Season Roster
(GK) Hope Solo, Haley Kopmeyer, Lindsey Luke (draft pick), Andi Tostanosky (NRI)
(DEF) Lauren Barnes, Rachel Corsie, Antonia Göransson, Elli Reed, Kendall Fletcher, Carson Pickett (draft pick), Michelle Cruz, Paige Nielsen (draft pick), Kelly Beck (NRI), Morgan Batcheller (NRI)
(MID) Kim Little (N YR), Jessica Fishlock (NYR), Keelin Winters, Havana Solaun, Kathryn Bennett (NRI), Lindsay Elston (NRI), Erica Shelton (NRI)
Non-Roster Invitee (NRI) | Not Yet Reported to Camp (NYR)