OL Reign have another few weeks before the Challenge Cup tournament begins, which will then be followed by a full regular season. While the club has plenty of returning players, they’ve welcomed several new faces in 2021.
How might the team line up when the Challenge Cup kicks off? Let’s dive into the depth chart, starting with the team’s goalkeepers.
OL Reign has three goalkeepers on the roster right now: England international Karen Bardsley; Cosette Morché, who spent her rookie year in Sweden before joining the Reign; and recent Washington State University graduate Ella Dederick. Another goalkeeper is set to join the club this summer after Bardsley’s loan ends (all signs point to OL’s Sarah Bouhaddi).
Bardsley, 36, is a World Cup veteran looking to prove herself after picking up an injury 18 months ago in the World Cup. In addition to being heralded as a great teammate and leader, Bardsley is a world-class goalkeeper who featured in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 World Cups for England. She’s a smart goalkeeper — knows when to come off her line, great stretching for the ball, and able to make quick reaction saves.
From goal of the tournament to save of the tournament in a fraction of a second!— The18 (@the18com) June 19, 2019
Incredible stuff from England keeper Karen Bardsley pic.twitter.com/IwRJljOUHy
Unfortunately for Bardsley, after she and England didn’t give up a single goal heading into the 2019 World Cup semifinal, an injury kept her out of that semifinal game and the final tournament matches. In England’s knockout round match against Norway, Bardsley damaged her hamstring. The injury would keep her out of the semifinal against the U.S. and see her sidelined for 15 months — in part due to recovery after surgery was required to repair the hamstring, and in part due to the pandemic.
By the time Bardsley had recovered, Ellie Roebuck had settled into the starting role for Manchester City. Today, England’s number 1 goalkeeper for nearly a decade is eager to get game time and show she’s still got plenty of herself to give.
If I had to guess, Bardsley should earn the initial starting spot for this squad. She’s got the experience to lead the backline and has proven herself time and time again. And, in particular, she’s going to really want to get some minutes to give herself a chance to earn a spot on Britain’s Olympic roster. With Team GB’s training camp for that event starting in June, look for Bardsley to make a case for herself.
Morché, 23, spent her first pro year playing for Eskilstuna United DFF in Sweden. She played 10 games there, with 2 clean sheets. As NWSL Analitica shares, her xG conceded is fairly low (1.61 per game), while she conceded a lower 1.4 per game. She also saved 71% of shots faced (3.4 PG). Her save percentage for close-range shots was 89%, while she only saved 59% of the medium-range shots.
At 6’ 2”, Morché has the height and athleticism to become a top goalkeeper. She can also get low and stretch for shots.
What is perhaps most impressive about Morché, and why she could be a great fit for OL Reign, is her passing and distribution numbers. She finished the year in Sweden completing 73% of her passes (100% short, 89% medium, and 68% long). That bodes well for the style of play the Reign want to execute.
Prior to heading to Sweden, Morché spent her last two college years at Texas A&M with OL Reign teammate Ally Watt. In those two seasons at A&M, which is known for its strong goalkeeper development program, Morché had a 35-7-3 record, 20 shutouts, and a 0.80 goals-against average.
Where Morché still has room to grow is her decision-making and positioning. In reviewing her film footage from Sweden and college, Morché was sometimes too aggressive coming off her line on crosses and corner kicks.
The great news is that getting more games will help her improve these aspects. She has a real opportunity to prove herself and claim the starting role in the future — but it might take some time. And that’s OK.
Dederick was one of the top goalkeeping talents coming out of college in 2020, but in a year with limited goalkeeper needs across teams, she went undrafted. Don’t let that fact fool you, however. She’s a talented young keeper that could be a steal for the Reign.
Dederick played her college years at Washington State University, featuring in 90 games, which is a school record. She also holds the team record for most minutes (8,158) and is in the top rankings for shutouts (29), saves (306), and wins (53). She was part of a WSU squad that advanced to their first-ever NCAA College Cup in 2019.
Dederick received U.S. Youth National Team call-ups early in her WSU career and had a stellar freshman and sophomore season before injuries saw her miss time. She ultimately spent six years at WSU due to those injuries. Here are some highlights from her 2016 sophomore year.
Dederick is likely third on the goalkeeper depth chart, but 2021 could be a pivotal year for her. Getting the chance to train regularly in a professional environment and with goalkeepers that have international experience could be just what she needs to jumpstart her professional career.