Three new faces signed for Reign FC while two long-time veterans bid adieu today, with the team announcing the signings of Sofia Huerta, Amber Brooks and Julia Ashley, as well as the departures of Australian international goalkeeper Lydia Williams and Japanese international midfielder Rumi Utsugi. All three new players are signed through the 2022 season.
The rights to sign Huerta and Brooks were acquired earlier this off-season in a trade with the Houston Dash, which saw Megan Oyster and Shea Groom head to the Dash. Ashley’s NWSL rights were acquired from Sky Blue FC for Ifeoma Onomonu.
Huerta, a native of Boise, Idaho, is currently wrapping up a campaign with Sydney FC in the Australian W-League. “I’m really looking forward to being a part of Reign FC,” she said in a team release. “The club has such a great reputation and I’m excited to help contribute on and off the field in any way that I can. Ultimately, my goal is to be the best player and person I can be and I’m extremely confident that the Reign will help me achieve this. I’m also so excited that I’ll be back in the Pacific Northwest, close to where I grew up.”
Brooks returns to Reign FC after four years in Houston, having made 12 appearances for the club in the 2015 season before a series of trades saw her move to Texas. She is just finishing a W-League campaign with Adelaide United. “I am really excited to rejoin Reign FC this season,” she said in a team release. “The quality of coaching, players, and professionalism at the club is top notch and what I want as a player to continue pushing my career forward. When I was last a part of Reign FC, I remember the family environment and high standards that produced a winning culture and successful season, so I am looking forward to experiencing that once again. The Reign FC fans are so supportive and enthusiastic so I can’t wait to be someone they are cheering on.”
Ashley comes to the NWSL after foregoing a contract with Sky Blue FC last year, opting instead to play for Linköpings FC in the Swedish Damallsvenskan. She played this off-season alongside Brooks at Adelaide United. “I can’t wait to fly back to the U.S. and get started with the Reign,” she said. “I am looking forward to meeting with the coaching staff, my new teammates, and getting acclimated in Tacoma.”
The departure of Williams was expected, with Reign FC CEO Bill Predmore hinting to Ride of the Valkyries last month that the team had spoken with her before the off-season and anticipated she would seek a starting position elsewhere. Williams made 20 starts over parts of three seasons with Reign FC, winning 9 games, losing 4 and drawing 7. She finishes with a 0.76 goals against average.
Utsugi first came to the Reign in 2016 and made 47 appearances in midfield, scoring three goals and adding three assists. Both internationals saw limited time on the pitch for the Reign last year due to injuries and national team call-ups.
“We will all miss Rumi and Lydia and wish them both the best,” said Predmore. “They were incredible professionals, fantastic talents, and important individuals in our squad. They will be long remembered by our club and supporters for their contributions during their time with the team.”
With today’s news, Reign FC has 21 players currently under contract for the 2020 season. Michelle Betos is the only player out of contract from last year who has not yet re-signed, retired, or opted to leave the league. In addition, the team has three unsigned draft picks, Kelcie Hedge, Sam Hiatt and Meg Brandt. Preseason starts next Monday, March 9.
Update, Mar. 5: The team announced today that goalkeeper Michelle Betos has been re-signed for the 2020 season, plus a club option for 2021. With her signing, the team now has 22 players under contract going into pre-season. She missed much of last season after rupturing her Achilles tendon in May, but has recovered and should be ready for the start of the season.
“Being back with Reign FC for 2020 is an incredible feeling,” said Betos in a team release. “It has always been such an honor to represent this club, and I believe this is a special time for us. The fight and culture of this group was undeniable last year. I’m so excited to build on that foundation and achieve great things with this team. I can’t wait to get started.”