It's been a busy offseason for Seattle Reign FC general manager Lesle Gallimore – even if she doesn't have all the results to show for it quite yet. Those pieces should be coming soon, Gallimore confirmed in a conversation with Ride of the Valkyries.
In fact, the team is very close to finalizing deals to bring in several more players.
"Right now, we are extremely hopeful to get three over the line soon," Gallimore shared. One or two might be available by the time the team kicks off preseason next week, but others may take a little more time – especially players coming from abroad, which is in the works.
"I think visas will be a little bit of a time-consumer that could cause some hiccups. There'll be some additions that start to trickle in, which is also fine because we'll be able to have some trialists and the younger players get their feet wet and get our draftees in and start to work with the staff and understand what the league is."
The more established professionals the Reign are working to bring in will be able to integrate smoothly into the team as the preseason kicks into gear.
What kind of players should fans expect the Reign to sign in the coming weeks? Before they even knew the status of their free agents, the club was specifically on the hunt for goal scorers and "impactful attacking players," according to Gallimore.
"Knowing that replacing a left wing like Megan Rapinoe was on the docket from the get-go has been a part of our search and a part of the plan the entire time. Players that are capable of setting the tempo from the midfield. Players that are impactful from an attacking standpoint, but can play on the defensive side of the ball in the way that Laura likes to play."
The Reign general manager has also been looking for players who can stretch defenses, something the team struggled to do in 2023.
"I feel like we were one of the teams that, if we couldn't combine and get around you, we weren't really turning defenses around on a consistent basis. So really trying to increase the technical ability at pace of some players who could be a little bit more of a threat going forward."
Losing Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett, and Angelina in free agency has given Gallimore a bit more work. But at the end of the day, she knows the Reign put forward offers that made the decision difficult for each player.
"I think our approach was a good one. We were at the table and we made it difficult. At the end of the day, when you want to know why players make a decision that they make, that's theirs to tell. I can say that it was difficult for them, which is what we needed to make it. If they weren't going to choose here, we wanted it to be a difficult choice for them. And we did."
The Reign GM, who came into this role last summer, will focus next on signing some of the team's core players to long-term deals instead of letting them enter into free agency. Gallimore wants the players to see "that we value them, that the players we want on our rosters, that we want to be here, that want to be here themselves." Those discussions will be ongoing throughout the season.
Fans have rightfully been wondering if being up for sale hampered the club's ability to negotiate with free agents or other players. Gallimore told Ride of the Valkyries that from a financial perspective, nothing is holding the Reign back.
"From a salary cap perspective, from OL ownership and even potential buyers, all parties want to make sure that we move forward in a positive way – that has not inhibited our ability to go out and get players. I need our own team to know that – that we are in the market, we're in the hunt, we're putting good offers in front of free agents, we're putting good offers in front of international players, and some of which we will get over the line and some we haven't."
The Reign GM did acknowledge, however, that players are always going to feel a little uncertainty until the sale goes through.
"I think the portion of the sale – and you see this with other clubs that have been for sale as well – is that internally and externally in the league, I think players just have this hesitancy around the uncertainty of a sale. What the investment's going to be, who the ownership's going to be, what the direction of the club's going to be, what the turnover is going to be."
The saving grace during that uncertainty, according to Gallimore, has been re-signing Laura Harvey through 2025 and the historic success of the Reign. The rebrand has certainly been a boost as well, "But without [the sale] getting finalized and knowing for sure, even for our players there's still that little bit of uncertainty."
Some of that uncertainty will lessen as the players get back into the rhythm of the preseason. They'll be welcomed by an "enhanced staff," as Gallimore called it – "from a high-performance standpoint, from a medical standpoint, from a coaching pedigree, from an experience standpoint – even before the sale happens." That technical team should be announced next week.
The players will also have the club's first-ever world-class training facility to call their own. When the Sounders officially move out of Starfire next week, the Reign will be hard at work renovating the facility for their players.
"It's really exciting for us because it's going to change the amount of space we have and the type of space we have. It will professionalize this club exponentially in a really, really short period of time. From performance, medical, locker room, meals, it's all just going to be much, much better than it's been, and we're only going to go forward from there."
While the Reign's three draft picks aren't expected to fill any holes immediately for the club – the team is "really, really pleased" with the players they got in the draft. Midfielders Sam Meza and Maddie Mercado also have the potential to be breakout players in their rookie seasons. Gallimore was quick to praise the entire team that was involved in the draft.
"We prepped really, really well in my opinion, and we had a lot of help
with that. I thought that was a really good collaboration. We had a really good idea going into this draft of who was out there – and Laura having worked with the U-20s that was this age group, [she] had some inside information on players as well."
A few undrafted college players should also be among the club's trialists. That includes Gianna Gourley, who scored 21 goals and notched five assists this year with Grand Canyon University. GCU confirmed that the forward was invited to the Reign's preseason camp.
There's room for some of these young players to earn a spot on the roster. The Reign currently have 21 players signed – with two of those, Jimena Lopez and Luany, still away on loan until June.
Between their draft picks, trialists, and the potential signings that are really close to getting over the line, Gallimore feels really good about how the team is building the roster. She knows it's an exercise of patience for fans who have seen some of the other clubs in the league make big moves.
"I want to just give our fanbase in particular the confidence that we're working really, really hard to get a lot of things over the line that'll ease everyone's anxiety about what the roster looks like moving forward, but it's also the fun part of the sport for everyone to be on the edge of their chairs. There are so many positives that we have to look forward to."