A young player with lots of talent and potential is heading to OL Reign. The club acquired Tziarra King and a 2022 2nd round draft pick in a trade with Kansas City. In exchange, OL Reign sent forward Darian Jenkins, the rights to midfielder Meg Brandt, and OL Reign’s natural 4th round selection in the upcoming 2021 draft to KC. Brandt was selected by OL Reign in the 2020 NWSL Draft, but never appeared for the team.
King was drafted by the Utah Royals with the 8th overall selection in the 2020 NWSL Draft. The 22-year-old forward scored 48 goals and tallied 19 assists during her college career at NC State. During what was a strange rookie season with the Royals in 2020, King played 406 minutes, scoring two goals. One of those came against OL Reign during the Fall Series.
“We think Tziarra will give us something special and that she will develop into an impactful player for our club and in the league,” said OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti. “She showed her potential last season and think with more games we will all see her quality.”
While King showed she is dangerous in front of goal in 2020 — especially in the air — she brings a lot of other traits that match up well with OL Reign’s style of play. She is a strong passer and likes to pressure from the front, which are both key priorities for the Reign in defense and in possession. King’s 75% pass completion rate in the Fall Series is solid for a forward (Bethany Balcer was at 73%, for comparison) — and even more so for a rookie. Defensively, King won nearly 70% of her tackles in college and nearly 67% of her tackles in the Challenge Cup last summer.
“I can’t wait to hit the ground running with OL Reign ahead of this 2021 season. I’m looking forward to joining a group of talented players and continuing to learn and grow under a staff that I’ve heard great things about,” said King. “I’m thankful and excited for this new opportunity with an awesome organization!”
With the addition of King, OL Reign’s roster now includes the 6th (Ally Watt), 8th (King), and 9th (Kelcie Hedge) overall selections from the 2020 NWSL Draft.
The most difficult part of the trade for Reign fans will certainly be saying goodbye to Jenkins, who was acquired by OL Reign in December 2018 in a trade with the North Carolina Courage. She finished the 2019 season with four goals and one assist and struggled at times with injuries. Jenkins couldn’t find the back of the net during the Challenge Cup — putting just 2 shots on target — and didn’t feature in the Fall Series after heading to Bordeaux in France on loan. If she can stay healthy for a full season, she has a chance to thrive in Kansas City, as head coach Huw Williams scouted Jenkins specifically and thinks she’ll fit in well with the system he’s building.
“It was a very difficult decision to send Darian to Kansas City, but with the return of Megan Rapinoe and considering the group of young forwards now on our roster—Pruitt, Balcer, Watt, Momiki, and now King—it was a decision we felt would be best for our club and for Darian. I really enjoyed my time working with Darian and believe she will be a big player for Kansas City this season,” said Benstiti.
As Benstiti indicates in the quote above, the club expects Megan Rapinoe to feature this season and now has a host of young forwards that will be competing for starting roles.
OL Reign now has only the 28th pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, which takes place January 13.