The Seattle Reign FC are looking to redeem themselves after a disappointing 2016. Last season had injuries, an unusual to say the least off the field situation involving a national team, and a league game played on a mutant, barely-regulation field. Yet they were only two points away from a playoff spot at the end of last season. There are plenty of new faces joining the team, but seven players from the inaugural season are back, a testament to the culture of stability Laura Harvey has built.
The mammoth departure of Kim Little -- one of the best attacking midfielders in the world -- was supposed to be at least partially offset by the addition of Canadian international Diana Matheson, but her season-long injury leaves a lot of questions to be answered in the midfield.
2016 Record: 8 wins, 6 draws, 6 losses
2016 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Key additions: Christine Nairn, Diana Matheson, Rebekah Stott
Key losses: Kim Little, Keelin Winters, Kendall Fletcher, Hope Solo, Manon Melis
-hang on, we need a moment to collect ourselves after that last line-
Projected starting XI/formation: 4-3-3
Merritt Mathias / Rachel Corsie / Lauren Barnes / Carson Pickett
Christine Nairn / Jess Fishlock / Rumi Utsugi
Nahomi Kawasumi / Beverly Yanez / Megan Rapinoe
Major trophies won all-time: NWSL Shield in 2014 & 2015
What we think of our team:
If every team's objective is to get to the playoffs for a chance at the NWSL Championship, then for the 2017 Seattle Reign FC, that comes with a lot more weight. They have to show that 2016 was something of an anomaly and Laura Harvey and gang can evolve their game so they haven't been "figured out" by the league.
What outsiders think of our team:
“A club that has a great off-field culture, the Seattle Reign exudes a cocky coolness that breeds jealously from other teams' fans.” - Anonymous
Best social media follow:
Without a doubt goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer (@hkopmeyer) is the one to follow. She is the reigning Best Social Media account on the Reign FC, two consecutive years running. And with tweets like this, one has to wonder why isn't there a reality-sitcom starring Kopmeyer. Think about it, Lifetime.
Had horrendous coffee, tried to tip 1$ to prove a point since $1.50 was too much, tipped $10 . I'm the worst. pic.twitter.com/6WuVPPMgsk— Haley Kopmeyer (@hkopmeyer) August 18, 2016
Twitter Poll: Are people still watching Survivor?— Haley Kopmeyer (@hkopmeyer) April 4, 2017
Our season hinges on…
Whether we can build an attack from the midfield. The architect of the Reign FC attack was Kim Little. She is gone and there's no "replacing Kim Little." Matheson is likely out for the season. Jess Fishlock, the team’s heartbeat, will be torn between shielding the defense and replacing Little’s distribution in the attack, and the season likely hinges on how she threads that needle. A fully healthy Megan Rapinoe coming off the wing will certainly help.
Why this year won’t be like last year:
Has the rest of the NWSL caught up to Laura Harvey and solved the riddle? That was a talking point throughout the 2016 season and 2017 could be a repeat of that again. There are no easy victories in the NWSL and the Reign could have their work cut out with reminding the league who they are. Also as it goes with any team in any sport, injuries to impact players can carry on through a campaign.
Oh and God help us if the Reign have to play an away match on some postage-stamp replacement field again this season.
Haley Kopmeyer. No longer spot-starting, the first choice job is hers to lose and the growth of her game after being the second to last college draft pick is a testament to the process of coaching and player development that Laura Harvey and her staff have built since 2013. It's a small list of NWSL goalkeepers that are above Kopmeyer and how the season goes for her could determine if a national team call-up is in her future.
Predicted finish in 2017:
The Reign FC rebound from last season and get back to familiar territory, the NWSL Playoffs as either a 3 or 4 seed. At that point, it's a crapshoot.
Jess Fishlock has a season for the ages that makes her a MVP candidate, claiming double digit goals to add to what we already know that she is an engine, a dynamo all over the field.