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Ship's Log, Jan. 26: Return of the Queen

A new look Reign are looking to build on past glory - here's what we're watching during their preseason

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6 min read
Reign forward Bethany Balcer gestures to the crowd after scoring a goal in a 2022 Reign match vs. Portland.
Get hype again, Seattle. | Credit: Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

A new chapter for Seattle Reign FC started this week, in more ways than one. The team started preseason camp under its new (old) name and with a refreshed crest, anchoring it back in the city it has called home for most of its existence. It was also marked by the departure of several key players from last season, most notably Megan Rapinoe (retired), Rose Lavelle (free agency) and Emily Sonnett (free agency). Even if you’ve been paying close attention to what’s going on you still might have some questions.

What’s the starting lineup look like and who fills the big holes?

Claudia Dickey appears to have cemented her grip on the starting GK role, to the point that she has switched to wearing No. 1 in training clips the team has shared. The back line supporting her is likely to be very similar to the end of last season, with Alana Cook and Lu Barnes anchoring the middle and Phoebe McClernon and Sofia Huerta bombing up the wings from the fullback spots.

At midfield, the team seems confident in having Quinn and Jess Fishlock serve in the holding/defensive role, and new signing Ji So-Yun is expected to take the role of attacking fulcrum, replacing the oft-injured Lavelle and the attacking-mid-by-committee group that played there in Lavelle’s absence. As for the attacking trio, Bethany Balcer seems most likely to take over Rapinoe’s spot on the left, with Jordyn Huitema providing a target in the middle and Veronica Latsko on the right.

Can the team really win it all with *this* roster?

The rest of the league has been retooling this off-season, so although this is close to the same roster that carried the Reign to the final last year, treading water likely won’t be enough to get them over that final hump. The hopeful news is General Manager Lesle Gallimore told Ride of the Valkyries last week that the team was aiming to make 3 signings with an eye toward goal scorers. Gallimore further hinted that some of those players would require visas. Ji was clearly one of those three, but all indications are that additional attacking star power is on the way.

New signings coming soon for Seattle Reign
Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore confirms that several deals are close to being finalized.

We also shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss some of the young unsigned players in camp. As other clubs have shown with U-18 signings like Jaedyn Shaw and Olivia Moultrie, there is starting-caliber talent to be found in the youth ranks, and the Reign are clearly bullish on the prospects of high schoolers JuJu Harris and Emeri Adames to have brought them into camp from Florida and Texas, respectively. Both of them, along with draft pick Sam Meza, have been regulars on youth national teams.

How does the team build on last season’s momentum and keep their fanbase growing?

I won’t lie and say losing several big-name USWNT players will make things easier for the club, but the Reign have always been about more than individual players. They still have OGs in Lu Barnes, Jess Fishlock and Laura Harvey, local ties with Nikki Stanton, Olivia van der Jagt and draft pick Makena Carr, national team stars who have the potential to be on an international stage at this summer’s Olympics in Alana Cook and Sofia Huerta (US) and Quinn and Jordyn Huitema (Canada) and a great underdog story in Bethany Balcer.

Returning the queen to her rightful place and restoring the city to the club’s name will also go a long way toward making it easier for casual and lapsed fans to discover the club and feel a connection, and although the new TV deal spreads matches among far more broadcast partners than ever before, it also makes a lot more games accessible than they have been in the past five years. A large majority of the Reign’s matches this season will be on free services – most of those on the new streaming service NWSL+, along with a huge Cascadia rivalry game on CBS and three more games on ION. The remaining games are primarily spread among services many people already subscribe to – five games on Prime Video and three matches on ESPN2/ESPN+. Only one game will air on CBSSN, a channel that can be more challenging to find. This makes it significantly easier for people to casually tune in and watch a game without having to commit to yet another subscription.

Combined with some savvy marketing, the club is on track to set new attendance and revenue records again this season. They have already surpassed last year’s record season ticket member revenue with nearly two months still to go before first kick, and the pending news of a return to local ownership is likely to further boost attention on the team.


Catching up on Sounder at Heart

Did you step away from the computer for a bit? Here are our latest stories.

Looking back at the week's news

LAFC - the perpetual rebuild; Klopp era to end at Liverpool;

LAFC are in a large roster rebuild, again. They have 14! riddles to solve, including how to not bring Carlos Vela back as a DP despite him performing at that quality and them having an open DP spot. Roster churn is their norm and it works for them, but usually it's the bottom of the table that deals with it. Most Western Conference sides are still adding the necessary talent to look good, except for Seattle – according to Matt Doyle.

Jürgen Klopp is leaving Liverpool at the end of the season. He's lost the energy that makes him a fun watch on the sidelines. His main assistants are on their way out too. Supporters of the club aren't taking it well, Klopp is brilliant and iconic.

Canadian soccer is at a crossroads. Despite having good national teams and a domestic league that qualifies for the Concacaf Champions Cup, there's no broadcaster ready for the upcoming year. OneSoccer and Canadian Soccer Business split up.

The new broadcast agreement means that the NWSL no longer has a decision day. That's a loss for fans. One-third of CBS' must-see regular season matches feature Reign.

What can the Seattle Reign expect from Ji So-yun?. The South Korean midfielder is a Chelsea legend, but it’s been years since she played against the best. (Equalizer). Backheeled calls Ji the most exciting move for Reign.

Tyrone Mears is coaching Fort Lauderdale's USL pro women's side.

Congratulations to our colleagues recognized as soccer's best writers by the United Soccer Coaches.

San Diego FC's first player will play for Orange County next year, but as a 17-year-old keeper, he likely won't play much.

One Knox SC head coach Mark McKeever investigated, claims of verbal bullying and physical misconduct substantiated (WBIR)

FC Dallas tried to sell Jesus Ferreira to a club in Russia. MLS stepped in and reminded everyone how difficult the financing would be.

Sporting KC let Gavin Wilkinson go. But there are more questions than answers.

Toronto looks to be re-branding as their away kit features a new logo.

Chicharito is back at the original Chivas.

Seattle Sounders say they started scouting Pedro six years ago. SIX!

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