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Lauren Barnes returns to OL Reign for 2022 season

The defender enters her 10th year with the club.

Racing Louisville FC v OL Reign Photo by Jane Gershovich/ISI Photos/Getty Images

OL Reign announced today that club captain Lauren Barnes has been signed to a new one-year deal with a one-year option. The left-footed defender has been a staple on the backline, primarily as centerback but also left back, for the last nine seasons.

The 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year, Barnes has made the most appearances of any player for the Reign, with 183 across all competitions. During the 2021 season, Barnes made 22 appearances for the club, playing almost 1,900 minutes. She managed 64 clearances and 40 interceptions to go along with 15 key passes. She averaged 40 passes per match with an 80% pass completion rate.

Perhaps most importantly, many players pointed to Barnes as a leader in the locker room who kept the team united during a tumultuous year. At the club level, the team weathered a bad start to the season and three head coaches to advance to the playoff semifinals. On a league level, Barnes helped her team use their voice to speak out for player protection against abuse and harassment.

“This is honestly one of the most, if not the most, incredible locker rooms I’ve ever been a part of,” Megan Rapinoe said while holding back tears after the Reign’s season came to a disappointing end during the 2021 playoffs. “The way we’ve stuck together from literally the bottom of the table, fighting our way back, staying patient, staying positive, staying with each other, has been incredible.”

Barnes was a big part of building that culture. As she enters her 10th year with the club, the defender will also provide leadership to young defenders at the club and in the OL Reign Academy, where she has taken a more active role.

“We are excited to welcome Lu back for her 10th season with the Reign,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore. “Above and beyond her performances on the pitch, Lu has always embodied the values, spirit, and ambition of our club, and has been a driving force behind all we’ve strived to achieve on and off the field. I am excited that she’ll finally have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage our city has to offer.”

Barnes was also a driving force for the Reign’s sustainability efforts. In addition to launching M.A.D. travel kits last year with sustainable products that athletes use on the road, Barnes helped the club partner with Tacoma-based A Drop in the Ocean to refill their shampoos, conditioners and body washes. They also invested in reusable towels to replace paper towels and partnered with Everybody Water, a boxed-water brand that comes in 100% recyclable packaging and contains water from a community system.

“I’m looking forward to re-signing for my 10th year with the Reign,” said Barnes. “It’s an honor to play with one club for a decade, and I am excited to continue contributing to the growth and success of the team.”

With Barnes’ re-signing, OL Reign now has 25 players signed, including goalkeeper Cosette Morché, who is on loan in France through June. In a year without significant international tournament interruptions, the Reign were expected to have a smaller roster than last season, where at times they had 28 players with some dealing with long-term injuries or loans. That means unless there are any trades or additional players are waived, there may only be one or two spots left for the remaining unsigned players drafted this year or any additional players invited to preseason.

Preseason camp is supposed to begin next week on February 1, but the NWSL Players Association — the union representing the players — indicated that players won’t report to camp until a collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon with the league and the NWSL Board of Governors. As Equalizer Soccer reported yesterday (sub. req.), there are still some significant hurdles to be cleared before an agreement can be reached.

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