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Reign FC sign assistant coach Steph Cox as national team replacement player

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You read that right — the coach is now the player.

Gallery Photo: Seattle Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars: Photos Mike Russell

More than three years after announcing her retirement, Reign FC’s Steph Cox is stepping back onto the playing field. The club announced today that Cox, a Reign assistant coach this year, is ready to play professional soccer again and will be doing just that as a national team replacement player.

She’ll be available for selection as early as Sunday, when Reign FC host the Houston Dash at Cheney Stadium.

After giving birth to her daughter Kaylee in 2013, Cox joined the Reign midway through their inaugural season. She went on to play in 49 matches — tallying four assists and leading a defense that had a league-best 0.83 goals against average in 2014 and was the second-best defense in 2015, her last season before retiring.

Cox, 33, was an assistant coach for Reign FC in 2017 and again this season, where she’s made a big difference for the backline alongside head coach Vlatko Andonovski. Being around the professional game again made her realize how much she missed playing.

“All season, coming out to practice, there was something inside of me that still loves striking a ball,” Cox said in a team press release. “I talked to my husband about it. He was supportive. I started thinking ‘I’m already here, why not give it a shot?’”

During her previous stint with Reign FC, Cox wasn’t a flashy defender but did all the little things well. Her positioning and one-on-one defending were so strong that she rarely had to make a last-second dive or tactical foul. In fact, she committed just 16 fouls and earned only one yellow card in her two and a half years with the Reign.

”On the field, [Cox] is by far the best left back that I have ever worked with and had the privilege of watching play,” Laura Harvey said after Cox announced her initial retirement. “A lot of the credit for how successful the team has been over these last two seasons comes down to her.”

Cox amassed 89 caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team, dating back to her debut in 2006. She helped the U.S. win Olympic Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and appeared at the 2007 and 2011 Women’s World Cups.

Having a player with her acumen available was a positive and welcome surprise to Andonovski.

“When she first told me that (she wanted to play), I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say or ask, but after processing everything I’m just excited and happy that we can have a player of her caliber on our team.”

Credit: Mike Russell

Many fans remember the joy of having Cox’s daughter Kaylee around to cheer on her mom and celebrate with the team after matches. Kaylee — sporting a jersey with the number 14.5 at every game — even followed the team on cross-country trips on occasion. But should Cox enter a match once again for Reign FC, she’ll have one more fan in the stands, as her second daughter Grace Marie was born in 2016.

And since Cox is taking number 33 this time around, we think Kaylee and Grace Marie should sport 33 1/3 jerseys this time around. We’d say, “Welcome back,” but its almost as if Cox never left.