The 2019 NWSL season is just around the corner, with teams starting to announce their pre-season schedules and announce signings and retirements. Yesterday, Reign FC confirmed the full details of their pre-season matches, including a game in California, three in Portland, and their annual match against the University of Washington Huskies in Seattle. Reign FC fullback Alyssa Kleiner also announced her retirement via an Instagram post.
Reign FC will once again travel to southern California at the start of pre-season. On Saturday, March 16, they will face the UCLA Bruins, alma mater of Reign FC centerbacks Megan Oyster and Lauren Barnes and new forward Darian Jenkins. The game will take place at SilverLakes Soccer Complex in Norco, California, with kickoff scheduled for noon. Tickets are $10 and are available now at the SilverLakes website. Reign FC won last year’s match 4-0.
At the end of March, Reign FC will take part in the Thorns Spring Invitational in Portland. The team last participated in that tournament in 2016. They will play three games over a one-week span, starting with a match against the US U-23 Women’s National Team on Sunday, March 24 at 11:30 am. Their second game will be on Wednesday, March 27 against the Chicago Red Stars at 1:30 pm, and the final game of the Invitational will be against the hosts, on Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 pm. Admission to the first two games is free, while tickets for the game against Thorns FC will be available starting on March 19. Due to ongoing construction at Providence Park, all games will take place at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus.
Finally, Reign FC will close their pre-season slate with their annual game against the University of Washington Huskies at Husky Soccer Stadium. The two teams have met in pre-season every year since 2014, with Reign FC willing all five prior matches. That game will take place on Friday, April 5 at 7:30 pm at Husky Soccer Stadium. Admission is free.
With recent departures of Elizabeth Addo and Kleiner, the Reign FC roster is currently at 21 players, with two additional players out of contract but reported to have been offered new deals. The team had no draft picks this year, so any further additions to the roster will come via trades or discovery signings. NWSL expanded rosters to 22 this year to account for World Cup absences, plus four supplemental roster spots to replace the amateur player rule that was in place previously.
At goalkeeper, both Lydia Williams and Michelle Betos will be returning. Reign FC will likely sign a third goalkeeper to their supplemental roster, since Williams will miss a significant part of the season while on duty with Australia at the World Cup.
On defense, the entire starting corps of Steph Catley, Megan Oyster, Lauren Barnes and Theresa Nielsen is returning, along with Christen Westphal and Kristen McNabb. The team also recently signed Spanish international fullback Celia Jimenez Delgado. Yael Averbuch’s status for 2019 remains to be determined. Catley will be away for part of the season on national team duty with Australia, and Jimenez likewise could be part of Spain’s roster for the World Cup, but the team has good depth and has lost only Kleiner from last year’s league-stingiest defense.
Reign FC will likely be without Jess Fishlock until late May, when UEFA Women’s Champions League competition is finished. However, they are returning the rest of their midfield of Morgan Andrews, Allie Long, Rumi Utsugi and Beverly Yanez. They also added Australia international Elise Kellond-Knight, who has been on the team’s radar for over a year but whose signing was thwarted last year due to a discovery claim by the North Carolina Courage. Reign FC could be without three midfielders – Long, Utsugi, and Kellond-Knight – due to World Cup call-ups, so I would expect to see a number of midfield trialists with the team during pre-season; Kristen McNabb can also provide defensive midfield depth if Vlatko Andonovski continues to use his preferred 4-3-3 formation.
The attacking band has seen the most significant changes. Gone are Adriana Leon, Nahomi Kawasumi and Elizabeth Addo, and newly added are the speedy Darian Jenkins and gritty Shea Groom. Reign original Megan Rapinoe returns, as does Jaycie Johnson, Jasmyne Spencer and Jodie Taylor. Kristen Dallstream is currently out of contract. With Rapinoe and Taylor expected to be with their national teams for the World Cup, this is another spot where several pre-season trialists will likely have an opportunity to earn a contract.