With the NWSL preseason set to kick off February 1 if the league and players can finalize a collective bargaining agreement, OL Reign announced the signing of two new players — 2022 draft pick Zsani Kaján and Phoebe McClernon — and the re-signing of Tziarra King.
Tziarra King signs through 2023
King, who the Reign acquired ahead of last year in a trade with Kansas City, re-signed with OL Reign for the next two years, with a club option for 2024. The NC State graduate was a first-round draft pick in 2020 and showed well in her first professional season with the Utah Royals, a team that moved to Kansas City in 2021.
The forward played in all four of OL Reign’s Challenge Cup matches in the spring of 2021, assisting and scoring a goal in the club’s 3-2 win over Chicago. King went on to feature in 15 matches for the Reign, including a Player of the Week performance in July against Orlando, where she netted a goal and earned an assist. She demonstrated a well-rounded set of skills — speed, a great technical ability in tight spaces, and the flexibility to play in multiple spots on the front line while mostly lining up on the wing.
While she saw a decrease in playing time in the latter half of the season, King will now have a full preseason with Reign head coach Laura Harvey — giving her a chance to get feedback from Harvey and demonstrate her growth from last year.
Long Live Zee King— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 28, 2021
Drop a cheers in the chat for this week's @budweiserusa Player of the Week, @tziarra pic.twitter.com/aFHzEPzG7w
“Having Zee continue to develop at our club is exciting,” said Harvey. “She has shown over the past few years that she has some tools that can make an impact in this league. I’m excited to see her continue to grow and develop in the next season!”
Phoebe McClernon inks deal through 2023
After OL Reign acquired her rights in a draft-day trade with Orlando, McClernon signed a two-year deal similar to King’s, which includes a one-year option in 2024. The 24-year-old was selected 14th overall in the 2020 NWSL College Draft from the University of Virginia.
After playing in Sweden due to Orlando’s withdrawal from the 2020 Challenge Cup, McClernon was a mainstay on the backline for the Pride in 2021. She made 25 appearances for Orlando, earning 19 starts and winning 75% of her tackles. McClernon’s early standout performances saw her named to the NWSL Team of the Month in May. Primarily a centerback, McClernon also filled in at right back at times.
“We are excited to bring Phoebe to the club, I think she will be a great addition to our backline,” said Harvey. “She has huge potential and I am excited to work with her. She has all the tools to be an excellent player in this league.”
McClernon wasn’t shy in sharing her excitement for the opportunity. “I am thrilled to be continuing my career with OL Reign!” she shared in the club press release. “In addition to Laura Harvey’s stellar reputation, it’s clear that the club as a whole is striving to make OL Reign one of the best clubs in the world and I am extremely excited to be a part of that and learn from so many people I have looked up to for so long,” said McClernon.
McClernon is a physical defender who started 67 games at Virginia. She was an All-ACC Second Team selection in 2019, helping lead the Cavaliers to 14 shutouts her senior year.
First-round draft pick Zsani Kaján signs for the 2022 season
OL Reign also signed forward Zsani Kaján for the 2022 season with a team option for the 2023 season. Kaján was selected by OL Reign in the first round of the 2022 NWSL Draft, with the 8th overall pick. The Budapest, Hungary native is a member of the Hungarian Women’s National Team, earning her first cap with the squad at just 16 years old.
Kaján wrapped up her last year at St. John’s University with a breakout performance. Her 17 goals and six assists helped her earn Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Second-Team All-American honors. She was just the third St. John’s player to be named an All-American, joining NWSL standout and England international Rachel Daly on the shortlist.
With limited roster spots available this year, OL Reign clearly showed that they rate Kaján with this deal. Many draft picks don’t sign with the club until they’ve had a chance to show their skills in the preseason. That apparently wasn’t necessary for the Reign’s technical staff.
“Zsani has so much potential to find success in this league and we’re really excited to start working with her. She’s a hard worker and a natural goal scorer and will make an excellent addition to the club,” said Harvey.
“I am incredibly happy to be a part of such an excellent team. I look forward to working together, developing, and playing with professional players in professional conditions,” said Kaján. “I will do my best to be a useful member of the team and repay the trust in the future.”
With these deals, OL Reign officially has 20 players on the roster, with a 21st player, Cossette Morché, on loan in France through June. The team expects to have a roster of roughly 24, leaving room for just a few more signings ahead of the season — barring any trades.