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OL Reign announce roster for Fall Series

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Eight new players join the club this fall, including one with World Cup experience.

Thailand v Chile: Group F - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Catherine Ivill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Ahead of the NWSL Fall Series, which kicks off Sept. 5, OL Reign released an updated 32-player roster, which includes 21 players available to feature in games. While not a formal season, the Fall Series will include 18 matches over the course of seven weeks with games being played in three-team pods in the West, South, and Northeast corners of the country.

New Faces

With a number players away on loan for the Reign, the club’s roster for this Fall Series features eight new names:

  • Julia Ashley and Leah Pruitt signed with OL Reign earlier this year, but were unavailable for the Challenge Cup as they recovered from injuries. Ashley is a defender whose rights were acquired from Sky Blue and forward Pruitt was waived by the North Carolina Courage.
  • Sam Hiatt, a defender from Stanford, was drafted by the Reign this year but was also recovering from injury at the start of the season. She has not yet signed a contract with the Reign, but has a good opportunity to earn some minutes this fall.
  • Reign Academy players Neeku Purcell and Smith Hunter are also training with the club, although due to roster rules the two won’t be able to feature in matches. Hunter, a defender who actually just graduated from the Academy, is starting her first year at Harvard University. Goalkeeper Purcell is only 16 but has already racked up plenty of U.S. Youth National Team experience.
  • Defender Kim Hazlett — a graduate of the the University of Portland — joined the team’s preseason training in Montana but ultimately didn’t make it onto the Challenge Cup roster.
  • Forwards Miranda Nild and Katie Benz are also on the Fall Series roster. Nild, a UC Berkeley graduate, featured for Thailand in the 2019 World Cup and most recently played with Lithuanian club team Gintra Universitetas. Benz is probably the most surprising name on the roster. She was a standout player at Cal who was on pace for an All-American senior year before suffering a career-ending broken leg. That was all the way back in 2011! She hasn’t played professionally since then (though she did play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, home to Sounders Women), and for the last three years she has been an assistant coach for the University of Montana’s women’s soccer team.

Unlike previous years where teams could call up amateur players for individual matches, players must be under contract to play in Fall Series matches. Unpaid players are not permitted, which is one reason why Purcell and Hunter — who don’t want to disrupt college eligibility — can’t feature in games. Players also must meet all NWSL roster rules, which include a requirement that players are 18 years or older. Similar to the Challenge Cup, short-term contracts are permitted, with such contracts running through Oct. 17.

OL Reign confirmed on Sept. 4 that Nild, Hazlett and Hiatt were signed on short-term contracts. Unless additional announcements are made before their first match, that means Benz remains a Non-Roster Invitee and would be unable to feature in matches.

NWSL Fall Series

NWSL Fall Series games will once again be broadcast on CBS, CBS Sports Network and CBS All Access. Matches will run from Sept. 5 - Oct. 17.

OL Reign’s pod for the Fall Series includes the Portland Thorns and Utah Royals. That means OL Reign will play each team twice and in three different locations — one game in Portland, another in Utah and a pair in Tacoma.

The Royals situation was uncertain a week ago after Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen and chief business officer Andy Carroll came under fire for creating a toxic workplace and racist remarks. Both have taken a leave of absence. Utah Soccer — which oversees the Royals, RSL and Real Monarchs — hired John Kimball, who spent 10 years with RSL, as interim president.

OL Reign’s first game will feature a nationally broadcast rivalry match against the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on Saturday, Sept. 12. The game kicks off at 12:30 PM PT on CBS.

The Reign will be off the first and third weekends of the Fall Series, followed by a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium to face the Utah Royals on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 12:30 PM PT. That game will stream on CBS All Access.

OL Reign’s two home games will be on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 5:00 PM against the Portland Thorns on Twitch; and Saturday, Oct. 17 at 5:00 PM against Utah, streaming on CBS All Access. Fans will not be permitted to attend the games in Tacoma.

Unavailable Players

OL Reign will be without eight players for this Fall Series. Megan Rapinoe elected to sit these matches out, while Kelcie Hedge is recovering from an ACL tear. Six players are going on loan to get more playing time outside the U.S.:

  • Machaela George — signed with the Reign through 2022 — has been loaned to Fortuna Hjørring A/S in Denmark through December 2020.
  • Rebecca Quinn — signed through the 2021 season — was loaned to Vittsjö GIK of the Swedish Damallsvenskan through the end of 2020.
  • Joining Quinn in Sweden are Lauren Barnes (loaned to Kristianstads DFF) and Yuka (Nicole) Momiki (loaned to Linköpings FC). Both loans conclude in November of this year.
  • Jess Fishlock has joined FA Women’s Super League side Reading FC on loan, with a planned return prior to the start of the 2021 NWSL season.
  • Darian Jenkins, who just has signed a two-year extension with OL Reign, was loaned to French Division 1 Féminine side FC Girondins de Bordeaux through February 2021.

OL Reign also declined to extend the contracts of goalkeeper Carly Nelson and forward Mariah Lee, both of whom were on short-term contracts that ended July 31.

Fall Series Roster

Goalkeepers (3): Michelle Betos, Casey Murphy, Neeku Purcell (NRI – OL Reign Academy)

Defenders (9): Julia Ashley, Amber Brooks, Steph Cox, Madison Hammond, Kim Hazlett, Sam Hiatt, Smith Hunter (NRI – OL Reign Academy), Celia Jiménez Delgado (INT), Taylor Smith

Midfielders (6): Morgan Andrews, Shirley Cruz (INT), Allie Long (FED), Kristen McNabb, Dani Weatherholt, Rosie White (INT)

Forwards (6): Bethany Balcer, Katie Benz (NRI), Sofia Huerta, Miranda Nild, Leah Pruitt, Jasmyne Spencer

Unavailable Players (8): Lauren Barnes (LOAN), Jess Fishlock (LOAN), Machaela George (LOAN), Kelcie Hedge (SEI), Darian Jenkins (LOAN), Yuka Momiki (LOAN), Rebecca Quinn (LOAN), Megan Rapinoe (VOO)

INT – International Slot | FED – U.S. Soccer Federation Player | NRI – Non-Roster Invitee | SEI – Season Ending Injury | CDP – 2020 NWSL College Draft Pick | LOAN – Player on Loan | VOO – Voluntary Opt-Out