While the NWSL offseason slogs on, Seattle Reign FC players and staff have been busy reflecting on the 2016 season — asking what went right and what went wrong as the team fell just short of its bid for the playoffs.
To bring supporters into those conversations, Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey and midfielder Jess Fishlock sat down for a three-part video series that looked back on the squad’s fourth season.
The series offers a detailed, candid look inside the heads of two people who are lifelong students of the game.
Building a Squad
As Fishlock states in the first installation, “at the beginning of this year, we just wanted to play beautiful, pretty, nobody-tackle-me” soccer. But with the league starting to figure out Seattle’s style of play in the NWSL’s fourth season, this approach didn’t really work. Harvey and Fishlock discuss what they learned from this challenge.
Harvey is amazingly sincere about the self-reflection she did over the course of this season — asking herself if she was the person who could move this team forward in the right direction. Luckily, the answer she came to was “yes.”
Both also talk about their regret in not working harder to develop Carson Pickett in her rookie season — acknowledging that Pickett was the first draft pick Seattle had signed since its first season who was ready to start on day one.
Reign FC has some significant rebuilding to do in 2017 after losing a number of important impact players — most notably Kim Little, Keelin Winters, and Manon Melis. Harvey and Fishlock also reflect on some of the players that left after 2015 that weren’t always starters, but were incredibly important members of the squad.
The two also commiserate with one another about the unfortunate timing of Manon Melis’ injury, as she was just starting to adjust to the Reign’s style of play. While they didn’t ultimately make it to the playoffs, Seattle’s end-of-season run was made possible by Melis’ return and the team figuring out how to best use her.
Changing the Landscape
In their final video, Harvey and Fishlock look back on the growth of the Seattle Reign midfield over the last four seasons — especially Keelin Winters’ four-year journey — while also expressing excitement about what’s next.
“Not everyone can be a Kim Little, because the balance doesn’t work,” Fishlock says — acknowledging the understated and invaluable role that Winters filled on this squad.
Harvey offhandedly mentions that Japanese international Rumi Utsugi wants to play centrally, which indicates a likely midfield combination of Fishlock, Utsugi, and Christine Nairn.
While teams often provide a peek into their operations, Harvey and Fishlock go a lot deeper — allowing fans to process the game with them. It’s a level of transparency that professional sports clubs don’t often provide to the public, and it mirrors the kind of general manager and coach Harvey has been for the last four years.
In addition, Harvey is always willing to talk tactics after a match, and never shies away from speaking from the heart to defend her squad — even if that means getting a fine or two along the way.
While last season was a bumpy road for Seattle Reign players and supporters, the future looks bright. Now, if we can only get Harvey to preview what trades or signings she’s cooking up with the two remaining international spots she has on the roster...