When the Seattle Reign FC took the field in the inaugural NWSL season in 2013, it’s fair to say it was equal parts excitement and mystery as to what would this team be like - and who would make up this team. US internationals Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, and Amy Rodriguez made the headlines as the US allocated players, but who else was going to make up the inaugural squad?
Like any sport that has a draft for those leaving the college game and hoping to continue on as a professional, if you are selected in the later rounds the odds are not in your favor. When you are the second to last player drafted, like goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer was, those odds are so slim they probably wouldn’t show up on the board. Yet, as the Seattle Reign FC prepare for the 2017 season, the mantra of hard work and dedication has stuck with Kopmeyer as she goes into the upcoming season as the team’s first-choice goalkeeper, and one of the Reign FC Originals.
The first installment in a series of profiling those that were here in that inaugural 2013 season and are preparing for season five, I asked Kopmeyer to reflect on what has been an incredible journey with still plenty to prove.
“What does this mean?”
That was Haley’s reaction to being drafted by Seattle in the 2013 NWSL College Draft. She said that someone texted her that it was announced on Twitter and she was shocked. While she did declare for the draft, the teams that she figured would draft a goalkeeper were passing her by and, already having a full-time job, she had to weigh the risk of chasing the dream to play professional soccer. “I decided within a day or two (after being drafted)...I made my way up to Seattle and one day later, we ran the beep test and flew to Tokyo.”
“Where has the time gone?”
Those that were here in 2013 don’t like to talk much about that first season of struggles. The dramatic turnaround in 2014 that’s made the Reign FC one of the league’s powerhouse clubs is still fresh in Kopmeyer’s mind, as is last season, where it was definitely a shock to a lot of people for Seattle to miss out on the playoffs. But it’s what’s driving Kopmeyer and the rest of the squad going into this season. She and the other originals know they have come such a long way. Was 2016 an aberration and this year’s squad will remind the league who the Seattle Reign FC are? “I think it’s funny, the OGs, the people have been around forever, we’ve got so many stories and memories and for all of us, when we look back in 20-30 years, this is it. This the best time of our lives.”
Of course, the 2017 NWSL Champion will not be decided when the ball is kicked on opening weekend in mid-April, but the wait is nearly over for everyone. Seeing the tail end of Tuesday’s training session and hearing the excitement in Kopmeyer’s voice, there is no doubt they are excited to be back on the field.
“They saw the potential in me and gave me the opportunity and I don’t know if other (coaching) staffs would have.”
“We are so, so, so lucky to have them as a coaching staff. They are part of the reason that Seattle is a team that players from other clubs, other teams, want to play for. They want to play for that staff. It’s them. It’s the culture they’ve created for this team.”
It might sound like a record skipping, but this is something we’ve heard constantly from Reign FC players, regardless if they’ve been here since 2013 or were drafted this past January. The coaching staff of Laura Harvey (also the club’s General Manager), assistant coach Sam Laity, and goalkeeper coach Ben Dragavon have been here from the beginning, and Kopmeyer’s development is one of the hallmarks of what their process can do for a player.
The full interview with Kopmeyer is below for your listening pleasure. It’s easy to think how a player’s career could have changed at various crossroads in their life. Being drafted second to last surely is the very definition of a long shot to making it onto a team. Then you get released but are offered a second chance should you accept and accomplish some objectives. You do that and are back on the team and learn from one of the most prolific goalkeepers ever. You do loan spells in Cyprus and Australia to further develop your game. You suit up for another season in the NWSL as not only one of the team’s established veterans and a fan favorite, but also without a shadow of doubt the first-choice goalkeeper.
You are Haley Kopmeyer, a Reign FC Original.