When Vlatko Andonovski was announced as the new head coach of Seattle Reign FC, fans wondered how much roster turnover there would be in the new era of Reign FC soccer. As we draw closer to training camps, Seattle is not done making moves — and their latest is another major one.
In a trade with the Orlando Pride, Reign FC announced today that they have acquired Australian international defender Steph Catley and forward Jasmyne Spencer. Leaving Seattle is defender Carson Pickett, midfielder Christine Nairn, and goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. Seattle also sent a 2019 third round college draft pick to Orlando as part of the deal.
Let’s take a look at the new additions heading to Seattle.
You won’t find many left backs better than Catley. Currently on loan at Melbourne City, along with Reign FC’s Jess Fishlock, Lauren Barnes, Lydia Williams, Larissa Crummer, and Jodie Taylor, Catley is a stalwart on the Matildas backline. She started all five games for Australia at the 2015 FIFA World Cup, played every minute of Australia’s resounding performance at the 2017 Tournament of Nations, and made 37 appearances for Orlando Pride over the past two seasons.
“Catley is one of the best outside backs in the world and will provide a tremendous boost to our squad,” said Seattle Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “The addition of Spencer will add a new dimension to our attack, complementing what we have in Naho, Rapinoe, Yanez, Crummer and Taylor.”
Catley is a significant acquisition and should help stabilize a defensive unit that, quite frankly over the last two seasons, looked anything but its vaunted 2014-2015 reputation. At only 23, Catley has already amassed an impressive soccer resume. She has locked down the starting left back spot for her country, which propelled its way to a 4th place world ranking last year.
In 2017, Catley earned NWSL Second XI honors after helping Orlando secure its first-ever trip to the NWSL Playoffs. Catley completed 81.4 percent of her passes, had the third-most passing attempts on the team, and led all Orlando players in touches and crosses. She also won 75 percent of her tackles. She’s an attacking left back whose ability to get up the left flank also earned her two assists on the year.
Forward Jasmyne Spencer comes to Seattle having played for Washington Spirit, Western New York Flash and Orlando Pride, as well as loan spells at Apollon Limassol in Cyprus and with Australian clubs Sydney FC and Canberra United. She’s been with Orlando since their inaugural season of 2016 as a forward/winger, making 48 appearances and scoring 7 goals.
Spencer looks to be depth for a Seattle attacking corps that currently features Megan Rapinoe, Nahomi Kawasumi, Bev Yanez, Larissa Crummer, and Jodie Taylor.
There’s a lot to process with yet another massive trade that sees some Reign FC fan favorites leaving, but it was to be expected.
Going into the 2017 season, Reign FC fans were buzzing at the possibility of seeing what Kopmeyer could finally do as the clear-cut, first-choice goalkeeper. Her four-year journey being backup to Hope Solo has been well documented here, and it’s why she became an instant fan favorite. There was buzz that maybe with a solid full season between the posts and a return to the playoffs, perhaps Kopmeyer would make enough noise to be on the national team radar. Unfortunately, reality was the opposite, as a mid-season change of goalkeeper coach and a style of play that was overdue for transition in an ever-evolving league resulted in Kopmeyer facing more shots than any other goalkeeper in the league.
Kopmeyer’s final start for Seattle was on August 26 in a 1-2 loss against the Portland Thorns. A few days later, Australian international Lydia Williams was acquired from the Houston Dash, and fans wondered what it meant for Kopmeyer’s future. Now we know her future involves Orlando purple and the stability of Tom Sermanni’s coaching staff, which just might be what she needs at this crossroads in her career.
For Carson Pickett, moving to Orlando is basically going back home. Born and raised in northeast Florida and a graduate of Florida State University, Pickett was coveted by Laura Harvey going into the 2016 NWSL College Draft and made 8 appearances (7 as a sub) in her rookie season, followed by 21 starts last season. There were flashes of growth as much as there were bits of a sophomore slump for the second-year defender. Her loan spell down at Australia’s Brisbane Roar is showing that she might be ready to take her game to the next level, and playing in front of friends and family might provide that additional boost to make her a rising star in the NWSL.
Much was made about the return of midfielder Christine Nairn to Seattle after spending four years with the Washington Spirit. A Reign FC Original, fans hoped that her continued growth and becoming an impact player with Washington would carry over to Seattle and be key in the club returning to the playoffs. However, she never seemed to settle into the Seattle midfield despite appearing in all but one game (23). After playing last off-season in Australia, she took this winter off to rest and recover. She should compete for a spot in the starting XI for Orlando as she looks to rediscover the form that made her such an impact player for the Spirit.
What This Means
Time will tell as to who is the “winner” in this trade. It would have been nice to see what Pickett could grow into under Andonovski’s system, if his system could have helped Nairn return to form, and if there was a possibility Kopmeyer could regain her confidence and return as the first-choice goalkeeper. Those are now questions for Sermanni and the Pride to help answer. For Reign FC and their fans, we get to welcome in a world class defender and a versatile forward who can come off the bench and make some noise late in a game.
Two weeks ago at the NWSL College Draft, was the mega-trade of all mega-trades saw the Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, and Sky Blue FC swap major international stars. Those moves undoubtedly changed the landscape of the league going into the 2018 season.
Could Seattle make even more moves that cause as much noise around the league? That remains to be seen. However, it is clear that we are in a new era of Seattle Reign FC soccer with Andonovski and owner Bill Predmore at the helm. Over the past few weeks, they have brought in midfielder Allie Long and defender Yael Averbuch, and parted ways with forward Katie Johnson, defender Rebekah Stott, and midfielder Diana Matheson.
Change is never meant to be easy, but in sports, five years with a core of players and/or a coach is a long time, if not an eternity in some cases. The 2018 Seattle Reign FC is going to be something new. We know this, and the new should be given a chance.