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OL Reign re-sign defender Steph Cox; draft pick Jimena López heading to Europe

Steph Cox has re-signed for the 2021 season, marking her ninth year in Seattle/Tacoma.

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Steph Cox is staying with the Reign, the place she’s called home for nine years. On Monday, OL Reign announced that she has re-signed with the club on a one year deal, through the 2021 season.

“Steph is a special player with a great mind for the game,” said OL Reign manager Farid Benstiti in a club release. “Her quality is tremendous and the leadership she brings is incredibly important for our club. Having her return was essential to our plans for this season.”

Ever since joining the Seattle Sounders Women in 2012, Cox has remained in the region. When the National Women’s Soccer League burst on the scene, Cox elected to stay in Seattle, featuring for the Reign from 2013-15.

After her retirement from professional soccer, Cox inserted herself into the coaching realm. Cox served as a Reign assistant coach in 2017 under former manager Laura Harvey. Then she took two years off, but returned as an assistant coach in 2019 under then-manager Vlatko Andonovski — the current U.S. women’s national team coach.

With injuries plaguing the Reign in 2019, along with international stars absent while competing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, Cox decided to lace up her boots once again and signed a national team replacement player contract.

However, after liking what he saw, Andonovski and the Reign signed her to a full-team contract through 2020. Last year, Cox competed and remained a starter through eight matches in the NWSL Challenge Cup and Fall Series.

“I am excited to be continuing my career and am so grateful that OL Reign is a place I call home on and off the field,” Cox said. “I look forward to the pursuit of a championship this season alongside the rest of my talented teammates and our amazing staff.”

Cox has been a longtime leader for the Reign, sometimes wearing the captain’s armband. She’ll be bolstering the defensive unit, along with Lauren Barnes, Amber Brooks, Machaela George, Madison Hammond, Sam Hiatt and eventually Celia Jimenez Delgado in 2021.

Reign announce Jimena López heading to Europe

Soon after OL Reign selected Jimena Lóez with the 28th overall pick of the 2021 NWSL Draft, rumors swirled that she would forego the NWSL and instead sign in Europe. OL Reign confirmed that rumor on Monday, and noted they will hold onto her NWSL rights through the 2022 NWSL preseason. López’s destination club has not yet been publicly announced. ( update, Jan. 26: López has now been unveiled as Basque club SD Eibar’s newest signing.)

López was the Reign’s lone selection in this year’s draft. Reign CEO Bill Predmore said that the club was aware of her desire to play in Europe when selecting her from Texas A&M University.

“While we believe she is capable of making an impact in the NWSL today, we are nonetheless supportive of her decision and think the move to Europe will accelerate her growth, given the playing time she is expected to receive. Our view with Jimena has always been focused on the future—we will closely monitor her progress, and when the time is right for all involved, we will work to facilitate a move to our club.”

OL Reign players and trialists have been arriving in the Seattle/Tacoma area ahead of the 2021 preseason, which is scheduled to start next Monday.