The 2019 Reign FC squad has been defined by two things: the World Cup and injuries. Twenty-eight players have seen the field already this season for the club because of these factors. Well, actually, a third thing has also defined the club this year — there’s been some inspired play on the field, despite all the hurdles the team has had to leap over.
The squad currently sits in fourth place with a game in hand. And they can move further up the table this weekend with a win over the third-place Chicago Red Stars.
Whether you are new to following the squad after the exhilarating World Cup, or you’re just having a hard time keeping up with all the injury replacements, we’re here to help with an introduction to the Reign FC squad that will be competing for one of four playoff spots over the second half of the NWSL season.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski usually lines up his team in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation. This season, Andonovski’s goal was to bring in players who could fill gaps during the World Cup, but also to build a roster for the long term. That meant finding talented players who could provide some youthful energy and grow into starting positions in the future.
The Reign have already played three different goalkeepers this season, primarily due to injury.
The current starter is Casey Murphy (#26), who the Reign signed in May. Murphy is a 2018 graduate of Rutgers University and was the starting U.S. goalkeeper at the 2016 U-20 World Cup. After getting drafted by Sky Blue last year, Murphy decided to give it a go in France. She immediately became a starter for Montpellier HSC, where she was voted best goalkeeper in France’s top league. The 23-year-old integrated seamlessly into the Reign, having been forced into a starting position immediately due to injuries. Many predict she’ll be getting regular U.S. national team call-ups soon.
Casey Murphy 24' minute save versus Washington Spirit
Casey Murphy is up for Save of the Week. Head over to the NWSL Twitter and vote to support. :https://twitter.com/NWSL/status/1140688057688924161Posted by Reign FC on Monday, June 17, 2019
- Lydia Williams (#1) was the club’s #1 in 2018 and is Australia’s starting goalkeeper, including for this World Cup. She doesn’t count as an international due to the fact that she has an American parent. Williams, 31, was one of the best goalkeepers in the world last year. She hasn’t quite returned to that dominating form this season — perhaps due to injuries. After the World Cup, Williams was put on the 45-day disabled list so she could get surgery to repair an injured ankle. She should be back by the end of the season.
- Michelle Betos (#18), who played for the Reign in 2013 and returned last season, was the starting goalkeeper at the beginning of the year. She was looking like one of the best in the league until she ruptured her Achilles tendon, putting her out for the rest of the season. Always a team player, the 31-year-old jumped in to mentor Murphy when she stepped into the starting role.
- Sammy Jo Prudhomme (#28) was signed by the Reign a week ago after getting traded by the Washington Spirit. Drafted by the Boston Breakers in 2017, Prudhomme won a national championship her senior year at USC alongside fellow Reign FC teammate Morgan Andrews. Prudhomme hasn’t earned many minutes in the NWSL, but the 25-year-old provides quality depth behind Murphy as the Reign struggle through injuries.
- Scout Watson (#29) signed as a National Team Replacement Player and was Murphy’s backup during the World Cup. She unfortunately suffered a season-ending concussion in training and is one of six players on the Season Ending Injury list.
Luckily, the Reign backline has been relatively stable and unaffected by injuries. That’s helped the team become one of the strongest defensive teams in the league. The starting defense typically features a combination of these five players:
- Steph Catley (#7) is the club’s left back, coming to the Reign in a trade before the 2018 season. She was recovering from a calf injury at the start of the season before departing for the World Cup with Australia. When Catley is at her best, she’s arguably among the most talented left backs in the world. The 25-year-old formed a formidable duo with Megan Rapinoe on the left side of the field last season and often darts forward to get involved in the attack.
- Reign FC original Lauren Barnes (#3) was the 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year. A regular starter under Laura Harvey — Reign FC’s first coach — Barnes worked hard to retain her starting spot when Vlatko Andonovski came on board last year. She’s continued her strong form this season. Barnes, 30, is among the league’s most technical centerbacks when on the ball — managing chop and Cruyff turns in the box with ease. She provides calm possession along the back line. She also times her tackles perfectly.
Another look at Barnes' potential goal-saving tackle. pic.twitter.com/ekPCuqOseG— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) May 27, 2017
- Megan Oyster (#4) was acquired by the Reign last season in the NWSL Dispersal Draft when the Boston Breakers folded. The 26-year-old UCLA graduate has earned two caps with the U.S. Women’s National Team and looks poised to get a few more. She’s one of those pure defenders who just does all the little things well.
- Theresa Nielsen (#8), a Denmark international, also joined the Reign last season. She’s got a strong cross and is a veteran lock-down defender who has silenced players like Tobin Heath. Nielsen, 33, was voted to the Best XI for the 2017 UEFA Euro, where Denmark advanced to the final.
- Celia Jimenez Delgado (#13), who represented Spain in the World Cup, has filled in across the back line this year. She’s a versatile defender who is calm on the ball. A graduate of the University of Alabama in 2018, Celia, 24, earned a degree in aerospace engineering. A literal rocket scientist. Due to injuries, she’s recently moved higher up the pitch into the midfield. Will we see her back in defense? It’s possible.
A number of other players have stepped up and filled spots along the backline:
- Stephanie Cox (#33) played for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the 2011 World Cup and 2008 Olympics and played for the Reign from 2013-2015 before retiring and having her second kid. She returned as a Reign assistant coach this year before lacing up the boots once again. Cox, 33, re-signed with the Reign just over a month ago, and it’s like she never left. The left back is so composed and whips in one of the best crosses in the game.
- Christen Westphal (#21) was acquired by the Reign last season in the Breakers Dispersal Draft. The 25-year-old defender has mostly filled in at left back and is often tasked with closing out games.
- The Reign just signed Schuyler DeBree (#35). DeBree, 22, was drafted by the Washington Spirit in 2018 with the 11th overall pick, but for some reason the Spirit decided not to bring the centerback into the fold — despite her arriving with plenty of accolades, including numerous U.S. Youth National Team appearances.
- Kristen McNabb (#19) was drafted by the Reign in 2017 and has been a staple along the backline and as a defensive midfielder. McNabb’s positioning is strong, she wins most duels, and she finds her teammates with simple passes. This year, she’s filled in as centerback and left back, where she picked up an assist. McNabb, 25, also earned minutes as a defensive midfielder before picking up a calf injury.
- Taylor Smith (#23) suffered an ACL tear during Australia’s W-League season and has spent the season rehabilitating. The forward-turned-right-back has earned 10 caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team. The 25-year-old Smith took a step back last year when she played for the struggling Washington Spirit squad, but there’s no reason to think she won’t be an elite defender once again when she comes back next year for the Reign.
The Reign haven’t had the fortune of rolling out their preferred starting midfielders together this season for one reason or another. Here are four players you’ll likely see Andonovski choose as the second half of the season progresses:
- Allie Long (#6) went to her first-ever World Cup and came home with a gold medal. The U.S. midfielder was a longtime player for the Portland Thorns, but came to the Reign in a trade last year. Typically an attacking or box-to-box midfielder, the 31-year-old Long settled into the No. 6 role last season and was one of the best in the league. You won’t see her take a lot of risks with her passes, but she’s a significant reason the Reign are able to play their possession-focused style. She doesn’t give up the ball easily.
- Rumi Utsugi (#20) went to her fourth World Cup with Japan this year, where she unfortunately got injured during warm-ups in their second match. Utsugi, 30, is still recovering from that injury — so we might not see her back right away — but the third-year Reign player is one of the smoothest on the ball when she is in the match. And the way she moves on the field is mesmerizing. Also, she can do this to Reign FC’s rival:
- Bev Yanez (#17) started her Reign career in 2014 as a forward, before then moving to the wing in recent years. This year, Yanez picked up more defensive skills and Andonovski moved her into a deeper role. The 31-year-old has been one of the most consistent midfielders in the league this season and plays a big role in the Reign’s rather effective press.
- Morgan Andrews (#12) was acquired by the Reign last season in the Breakers Dispersal Draft and has become a reliable holding midfielder or box-to-box player. Andrews, 24, unfortunately has had to sit in recent weeks due to a hamstring injury, but her ability to open up play with long passes — combined with how well she wins balls in the air — makes her a threat for the Reign. As a testament to how weird this season has been, she was even asked to play a few minutes in goal due to injury, where she earned honorary Save of the Week.
And here are a few new faces and veteran talents who you might see pop up in the midfield.
- Jess Fishlock (#10) ... you probably know that name. The Welsh midfielder and Reign FC original won a Champions League title this year with Lyon in France before making her way back to Tacoma. She promptly began scoring goals and was named June NWSL Player of the Month before tearing her ACL. We know the 32-year-old Dragon will return stronger than ever.
- Last week, the Reign signed Canadian international Rebecca Quinn (#TBD), who departed the Washington Spirit at the start of this season to join Paris FC before the World Cup. She was the third overall pick in the 2017 NWSL Draft and can play either as centerback or in defensive midfield. The Reign list the 23-year-old as a midfielder, but we’ve yet to see her suit up.
- The Reign also just acquired Rosie White (#31), a New Zealand international who competed in the World Cup. White’s move to the Reign was made possible after Utsugi got a green card, freeing up an international spot. White is the type of player who can thrive under Andonovski — tenacious in trying to win the ball back and move it up the field to attack. She doesn’t score a ton of goals, but the 26-year-old has been involved in plenty of goal-scoring chances.
- Morgan Proffitt (#14) was brought in this year to provide depth in the midfield, and she’s been called up as a starter in the last month, where she has filled in admirably. The 24-year-old is tall and moves quickly in a holding midfield role. You don’t always notice Proffitt on the field, which is sometimes the biggest compliment for a player in that position.
This is, perhaps, where we’ve seen the most rotation due to the World Cup and injuries. It’s hard to predict who might start in the next few matches, as the front line has been in a constant state of rotation. When everyone is healthy, the club might have the most attacking depth in the league.
- You know Megan Rapinoe (#15). We probably don’t need to tell you much more. The World Cup Golden Boot and Golden Ball winner has been with the Reign since 2013. Rapinoe is recovering from an inflamed Achilles and won’t be called upon immediately. But having a player to close out the season who can do things like THIS will be nothing but helpful.
- Jodie Taylor (#9), an England international, went to her second World Cup this year and scored the match winner against Argentina. The 33-year-old striker has a knack for getting herself in incredible goal-scoring positions. That means she’ll play on the edge of the offside line — and might get a call or two or five in a match. Her movement off the ball creates so many opportunities for her teammates.
- Bethany Balcer (#24) is in contention for NWSL Rookie of the Year. An unknown coming out of college — she attended an NAIA school — the 22-year-old was undrafted and earned one of the final spots on the Reign roster at the start of the season. She played for the Sounders Women last year and has made the most of her NWSL minutes, currently leading the team in goals.
- Shea Groom (#2) played under Andonovski when he coached FC Kansas City. She’s a player other teams hate going up against — totally fearless, unafraid to be a pest, and ruthless in front of goal. Groom, 26, had a tough, tough season last year at Sky Blue — a club that received rounds of criticism for poor player conditions — but is slowly becoming the “old” Shea again. She’ll run through walls for her teammates.
- Darian Jenkins (#11) was acquired in a trade with the North Carolina Courage this off-season. After getting drafted in 2017, she spent the last two years recovering from a leg injury and trying to earn minutes behind the Courage’s vicious attacking depth. She’s earned more playing time for the Reign and has fans rather excited for her future. Jenkins has also been dealing with an ongoing injury — a hamstring strain — but her ability to take on defenders and cut in for a shot should have opposing teams nervous when she’s fully fit. The 24-year-old also leads the Reign FC book club.
- The Reign acquired Ifeoma Onumonu (#25) just over a month ago after she was waived by the Portland Thorns. The 5’ 10” forward has been a constant threat for the Reign and even made the NWSL Team of the Month for June. Under Andonovski, the 25-year-old is like a new player — confident, moving constantly off the ball, and helping press opponents high up the field. She’s been one of the Reign’s most consistent players this summer.
- Rapinoe wasn’t the first Reign player to have pink hair. That honor belongs to the newly signed Addison Steiner (#27), who joined the club in May. Steiner comes to the Reign from Sweden’s top league, where she decided to dye her hair bright pink. The 24-year-old has kept the pink hair and provides a spark off the bench in the attack. Steiner hasn’t been too goal dangerous, but she’s constantly running on and off the ball to create chances.
- Jasmyne Spencer (#22) and Jaycie Johnson (#16) are out for the season with injuries. Spencer — a new addition to the team in 2018 — tore her ACL in the opening match. Johnson re-aggravated a knee injury and is taking the rest of the year off to have surgery and recover. Kiersten Dallstream (#5), a member of the Reign since their opening season, has also been dealing with lingering injuries and has earned only limited minutes this year.
The Reign haven’t played at home in over a month, but will be returning to Cheney Stadium with their World Cup stars and a sellout crowd this Sunday, as the club takes on the Chicago Red Stars. If you weren’t among the lucky 7,000+ who scored a ticket, you can catch all these players on Yahoo! Sports, the free streaming partner for the league. Tickets are still available (but going fast!) for their other six remaining home games.