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OL Reign add Rose Lavelle for the 2021 season

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The USWNT midfielder will start training with the club on May 26.

Nikita Taparia

Another week, another world-class player joining OL Reign for the 2021 season.

OL Reign today announced that U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Rose Lavelle will immediately join OL Reign as a U.S. allocated player. While initial rumors had indicated she’d be joining the Reign after the Olympics, the Reign confirmed Lavelle will start training with the club on May 26 and is expected to be available for selection in the next home match against the Washington Spirit on May 30.

“We believe Rose has the ability to be the best player in the world. She is an extraordinary talent that is the perfect fit for our long-term vision for the team,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore. “From the moment the trade became a possibility last year we have been focused on finding a way to bring her to the club. We are thrilled to add her to the squad and believe she can play a key role in our efforts to compete for a championship this season.”

Lavelle joins OL Reign from Manchester City in England’s Women’s Super League. The 26-year-old midfielder joined Man City in August of 2020, just prior to OL Reign acquiring her NWSL rights from the Washington Spirit.

“I just wanted to say how excited I am for this next chapter of my career with this team,” said Lavelle. “I am really looking forward to getting to Tacoma and being a part of what they are building there. I think it is going to be such a fun and exciting season ahead. I can’t wait to be a part of it with OL Reign.”

The number one pick in the 2017 NWSL draft, Lavelle began her professional career with the Boston Breakers — scoring two goals in her first eight games as a rookie. She then spent three seasons with the Washington Spirit before heading to Manchester City last fall, making 21 appearances across all competitions for the Spirit. While she spent her final two years in Washington struggling with hamstring injuries, she was an important contributor when she got on the field and managed to score this beautiful goal to take down the NWSL shield-winning North Carolina Courage.

Lavelle made her senior debut for the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2017 during the SheBelieves Cup — bursting onto the scene with a Player of the Match performance against England.

The midfielder is now a regular fixture with the USWNT. She has made 53 appearances for the U.S., scoring 14 goals and adding eight assists. She became a household name during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign, scoring three goals — including one lovely solo effort in the final — and winning the Bronze Ball, the prize awarded to the third-best player in the tournament.

Lavelle played college soccer at the University of Wisconsin. There, she scored 22 goals, was a four-time First Team All-Big Ten selection, was a First Team All-American her junior year, and was named All League in 2015 while playing with Sounders Women during her college summer break. Lavelle also represented the U.S. at the youth levels. She won the Golden Ball at the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship before leading the team to the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World cup, finishing with one goal and two assists.

Remind me, how good is Lavelle?

Lavelle can get in between lines from the midfield better than almost any player in the world. Her ability to receive the ball from her defense and immediately create in the attack is world-class. There are few players out there who do it better than Rose. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to OL Reign’s Jess Fishlock, who called Lavelle the “best midfielder of the tournament” during the 2019 World Cup.

Lavelle is at her best when she can roam freely in the middle of the field — nutmegging defenders and stretching the field with her passes. She’s the kind of player who glides with the ball, and like Kim Little before her, the ball sticks to her foot like glue. With her skills on the ball, she often pulls extra defenders toward her as well, creating space for her teammates.

On top of that, Lavelle is deceptively fast. While she is often thought of more as a creative playmaker, she is a pretty decent goal-scorer as well. Just look at this goal from last fall, when the U.S. faced the Netherlands for the first time since the World Cup final. Not only does Lavelle break quickly in transition, but she separates from her defender perfectly with a little shimmy-shake and instinctively puts the perfect ball into the far-post net. It’s apparently a move she’s been working on with her USWNT coaches.

“We are incredibly excited for Rose to be joining our team,” said OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti. “She is a special player that has the ability to change games. She is an ambitious player and very effective in the midfield. Her experiences in the NWSL and WSL, as well with the national team, have made her a very aware and intelligent player.”

How did OL Reign get Rose?

OL Reign acquired the NWSL rights to midfielder Rose Lavelle in a trade with the Washington Spirit on August 16, 2020. In return, Washington received OL Reign’s natural first-round draft pick in the 2022 NWSL College Draft and $200,000 in allocation money. $100,000 was paid at the time of the trade and the second payment of $100,000 will be paid now that Lavelle returned to the NWSL.

The club knew Lavelle wanted to give it a shot in England, but made sure that she and her agent knew how excited they would be to welcome her to OL Reign when she was ready. Well, she’s ready.

What happened at Man City?

Lavelle was never given consistent playing time at Manchester City for a few reasons. First, she had a small knock when she joined the team, which limited her training and game time. After she was back to full health, she ended up getting stuck behind a talented midfield trio that was clicking for Man City.

The team, of course, had to start a holding midfielder, and that role often went to Keira Walsh. Sam Mewis was arguably one of the best midfielders in the world at the time, while Caroline Weir was having one of the best years of her career. Who do you take off the field to give Lavelle consistent minutes, when it was all working for City? That relegated Lavelle to the bench or to a less natural position on the wing, where should couldn’t get on the ball as often. Lavelle even played a match in the No. 9 role. This wasn’t necessarily Manchester City’s fault or Rose’s fault. Just an unfortunate situation and some tough choices.

When Lavelle did play in her preferred role, she was effective. She scored one league goal in 466 minutes and made four appearances in the Women’s FA Cup, scoring two goals. In addition, Lavelle appeared in four UEFA Women’s Champions League matches. According to fbref, Lavelle was in the 90th percentile in the WSL for passes into the penalty area, through balls, progress carries, and pressures in the attacking third. She also scored high in shot-creating actions and pass completions.

Should I be worried about injuries?

It’s possible. The only thing that’s held back Lavelle’s career at this point is her injury problems. It seems as though just as she’s making some progress, she picks up a small knock that keeps her out for a few games. And, like Megan Rapinoe, she’s had her NWSL minutes limited by U.S. Soccer as a result. However, she’s been on a good stretch now and has a strong training staff to support her at OL Reign and with the USWNT. She’s going to want some consistent time with the club ahead of the Olympics — assuming they move forward.

How many games will she play for OL Reign?

Like Rapinoe, Lavelle should be one of the 18 players called up to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. That means both will likely be with the USWNT for three friendlies between June 10-16. The good news? The NWSL is taking a break during that time, as it’s a FIFA international window. OL Reign play on June 5 before those matches and June 19 after they conclude. Assuming they don’t start in all three USWNT matches, that leaves plenty of time for Rapinoe and Lavelle to get minutes with the Reign in June.

The other big set of games will be for the Olympic matches, which take place July 24-Aug. 5. The U.S. will head to Tokyo well before that to train, but that still gives Lavelle plenty of time with OL Reign before trying to win another Gold medal with the USWNT. The Reign have another 12 regular-season games after the Olympics as well, although fans shouldn’t expect Lavelle and Rapinoe immediately after that tournament concludes.

Where will she play?

Lavelle will most certainly line up in the midfield as either a central attacking midfielder or box-to-box midfielder, depending on who gets the start around her. When this team has their full choice of players available, expect Lavelle to start alongside Jess Fishlock and Dzsenifer Marozsán. When more defensive support is needed, Quinn or Dani Weatherholt could easily slot in. The team also has Shirley Cruz, Rosie White, Kelcie Hedge and Angelina as midfield partners. Now THAT is a dangerous set of midfield options.

OL Reign has been slowly improving in their first matches of the 2021 season, but the team could still transition faster up the field when they recover the ball in the midfield. Lavelle is the perfect player to help with that.

So, I can get hyped?

Yes! You have my full permission. Adding Lavelle to the midfield is going to do wonders for the Reign’s attack and possession-based style of play. The team has struggled to be clean on the ball in their opening five matches of the year. Who better than Rose Lavelle to help bring some calm, creative flair to the midfield?