Good goalkeeping is a beautiful thing.
In the NWSL there is often not just a decline between the starting goalkeeper and the backup, but a cliff so steep even mountain goats would say “no thanks”. But Seattle, with presumed number one Lydia Williams out, don’t just have a backup but someone who has won Goalkeeper of the Year for her work in the NWSL, they have Michelle Betos.
Michelle Betos is not your typical backup goalkeeper. For the Portland Thorns in 2016, her last year in the league before this season, she tallied 9 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws with 16 goals given up. She was the Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015, with surely her greatest moment being the match-saving, stoppage time equalizer against FC Kansas City.
Reign FC knew incumbent number one goalkeeper Lydia Williams would be out at the start of the season due to the Asian Cup with Australia. They knew that Haley Kopmeyer was gone to Orlando. They knew having a replacement level goalkeeper wasn’t an option. The forwards and other attacking players in the NWSL are too good to just slot a typical backup level goalkeeper in. So they went out and found a player who wouldn’t just keep them in games, who wouldn’t just hang on, but could be a legitimate starter when needed and who the club knew from the 2013 season that we’d rather not talk about. Betos’ 13 saves so far are second best in the league at the time of writing this. Combined with her leadership and the way she had managed to make nearly every shot toward her look savable with her skill set, she has been wonderful to watch.
Bringing Betos back was a nice call back to the inaugural Reign FC season where she went winless in her 7 games started. She returns to the team not as a journeyman with just a handful of starts, but an experienced, steady force who can command a line and make sure that Seattle can handle whatever, or mostly whatever, is thrown at them from other teams. With an odd number of teams this season, Seattle has drawn the short straw and been the odd team out more times than Reign FC fans may want as the matches so far feel far & few between. That said in the three matches they’ve played so far, Betos’ experience in the league and as a veteran overall are why she’s here for a second stint with Seattle.
As we saw over the weekend, young goalkeepers in this league can have days to forget between the posts as much as we praise them for the upside they have. Still, there is very much value in a veteran goalkeeper like Michelle Betos, that designating someone with a resume like hers as “the backup” could just be in name only.
“I’m incredibly excited to be re-signing for the Reign,” Betos said in a team release. “It has been a winding road back to Seattle and its pretty cool to consider how much we have both grown since 2013. I was so grateful to start my time in the NWSL there and feel the same about my return.”
With Williams now in Seattle with the Asian Cup over, we may see Betos sit a few games or we might see Williams need a bit more rest before starting a match. Either way head coach Vlatko Andonovski has maybe the best one-two punch in the league in terms of goalkeeping prowess.
A problem of who to start when both are so good is still a problem, yes. But if the biggest problem the Reign goalkeeping has is that, they are in pretty good shape.