This is the bad place.
The worst fears of Reign FC fans became reality as the club confirmed today that midfielder Jess Fishlock’s season is over after suffering a torn ACL.
Fishlock’s injury happened in the 51st minute of Friday’s match at Utah Royals FC, which they won 2-0. After a free kick was headed out of the 18-yard box, Fishlock collided with Utah’s Mandy Laddish in trying to claim the ball and spring a Reign FC counter-attack.
The collision sent Fishlock down and she would not get up, needing to be stretchered off. The reaction from her teammates alone told you it was something serious, and it even brought out head coach Vlatko Andonovski to come out and check on his midfielder. No malice to the collision. Just two players competing for an open ball and unfortunately, Fishlock got the worse end of it.
Fishlock’s 2019 campaign with the Reign ends just as it was starting. She joined the team in late May after an offseason loan spell at Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, where she won the treble (Division 1 Féminine, Coupe de France Féminine, and UEFA Women’s Champions League). The honors weren’t just on the soccer field for Fishlock as she also announced she’s writing an autobiography and added the title of MBE to her name.
It was shaping up to be quite the year for the Welsh Dragon, as her arrival to Reign FC was sorely missed and incredibly important. Injuries and World Cup departures had rendered the team of any offensive threat. When Fishlock made her season debut on Memorial Day against defending NWSL champions North Carolina Courage, her influence was instantaneous. Despite having virtually no training time with a brand new offensive trio in Darian Jenkins, Bethany Balcer, and Shea Groom, everything clicked as if they had been playing for years.
Fishlock’s presence on the field was something opposing defenses could not ignore and it opened up the field for everyone else. Reign FC went five matches unbeaten, with three wins since she made her season debut, and Fishlock herself claimed three goals and an assistant in that spell. So yes, having Jess Fishlock on your field is a very good thing.
Losing her for the season makes it an eye-popping FIVE Reign players on the Season Ending Injury list. How much more can this team’s depth be stretched and tested remains to be see, however with the FIFA Women’s World Cup nearing its terminus, there are players coming back. The team’s Australia (Catley, Kellond-Knight, Williams), Spain (Jiménez Delgado), and Japan (Utsugi) representatives have all made their way back to Washington state and will be available for selection for the next match. They have to be available as they are still in the midst of four straight matches on the road and next up for them are meetings with rival Portland Thorns FC and the aforementioned defending NWSL champions, North Carolina Courage.
And eventually, Jodie Taylor (England) and Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long (United States) will be back to restore something of a full strength Reign FC squad.
But there is only one Jess Fishlock.
“It’s absolutely devastating for us as a team to lose a player and a leader like Jess,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said in the club’s release. “But this season has been about facing and overcoming adversity – this will just be another test for our squad. I am confident our players will again rise to the challenge.”
Andonovski continued saying that while Fishlock rehabs from the injury, she will still be a presence at training.
“No matter what I say, it’s not going to be enough to explain how important she is for this team. Not only in terms of her playing abilities, but also in terms of her leadership for a young group of players,” continued Andonovski. “While I wish she was out on the pitch, I am excited to have her working with me and the technical staff to continue to push the team forward.”
Reign FC owner and president Bill Predmore also commented on the news, adding some bits of encouragement that there wasn’t any structural damage beyond the ACL tear for Fishlock.
“We are heartbroken for Jess, but know that her tenacity and resilience will help her make a quick return to the pitch. The reports back from the medical team have been really encouraging – beyond the ACL tear there was no additional damage. She’ll have surgery on Monday and the guidance we’re being provided is that she should easily be ready to go well before preseason.”
We’ve always said she’s tougher than a two-dollar steak at a truck stop diner, but this is one injury that will keep her sidelined for a long time. How this injury will affect her playing in 2020 for club and country remains to be seen.
We do know she has aspirations of helping Wales qualify for the 2021 edition of UEFA Women’s Championship, but a torn ACL is a torn ACL. It alters careers.
Of course there is her teammate Megan Rapinoe to look at for inspiration, who has been playing in the form of her life after sustaining her own torn ACL injury in late 2015, only to return halfway through the following 2016 NWSL season.
There is only one Jess Fishlock.
She may be down, but she’s not done.
“I am obviously disappointed by the injury, but am confident in my ability to make a quick return early next year,” said Fishlock in the club’s release. “The word from the medical team has been super encouraging, so I expect to get the surgery behind me quickly and begin the rehab process next week. I’ll be rooting the team on from the bench and will do everything possible to support the squad through the season.”
And we wish her nothing but the best in getting a full & proper recovery.