On the heels of winning the 2022 NWSL Shield, OL Reign kicked off their 2023 NWSL preseason at Starfire Sports, the club’s new permanent training facility, on Tuesday. The team’s preseason roster consists of 30 players, including 26 players who are currently under contract for the 2023 season.
Among the club’s returning players are all five players who were named to the 2022 NWSL Best XI First Team or Second Team: Defenders Alana Cook and Sofia Huerta, midfielders Jess Fishlock and Rose Lavelle, and forward Megan Rapinoe. All of the other core starters from the NWSL Shield-winning season have returned as well.
“I am very pleased to bring back almost our entire roster that helped us win the NWSL Shield last season,” said head coach Laura Harvey in a club press release. “We have a great balance of veteran players who understand the demands of this league and what it takes to win under pressure, a group of returning rookies and a few new players who we think have great potential to succeed. I’m excited to see how this roster begins to mesh as we head into preseason.”
Included in the Reign’s preseason roster are forward Elyse Bennett and defender Emily Sonnett. OL Reign acquired the rights to both players in separate trades with Kansas City and the Washington Spirit. Since those trades, the Reign picked up the existing contract options for both players, keeping them signed with the team through the 2023 season.
The roster also includes veterans Rapinoe, Lauren Barnes, and Nikki Stanton, who all became free agents at the end of the 2022 season thanks to the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed by the players association and league. All three elected to come back to OL Reign. Tobin Heath, the final free agent from last year’s OL Reign roster, is not with the Reign for preseason training. She’s rumored to be joining Angel City FC, although nothing has been officially confirmed.
In addition, defenders Ryanne Brown and Alyssa Malonson have both returned to the club after being on loan in Denmark with FC Nordsjælland in the Danish Women’s League. Brown played 10 matches with Nordsjælland and Malonson featured in 13 — with Malonson playing on the backline while Brown was used as a forward most often. FC Nordsjælland currently sits in fifth place after 14 games.
Four unsigned players are in preseason training camp. That includes both 2023 NWSL Draft picks, University of Washington defender Shae Holmes and University of Wisconsin-Madison midfielder Natalie Viggiano. Holmes trained with the Reign on occasion last year and played on the USWNT U-20 squad that Harvey coached. According to Ride of the Valkyries sources, Holmes was one of the Reign’s top priorities in this year’s draft, and the Reign see Holmes as someone with a long-term future at the club.
Two non-roster invitees have also joined preseason training: forwards Mariah Lee and McKenzie Weinert. Lee grew up in Covington, Washington, and was with the Reign during the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. She went on to play at Celtic FC in Scotland and with Spanish Primera División club Sporting Club de Huelva. Weinert is a graduate student from the University of Washington and appeared in 19 matches for the Huskies during the 2022 season, scoring five goals and earning five assists.
“As the defending NWSL Shield winners, we have high expectations going into the 2023 season,” said general manager Nick Perera in a club release. “We are extremely confident in our well-balanced roster, full of players who can step up at any given moment. We are eager to see them take the pitch soon!”
That depth will be tested this year, as OL Reign could be without as many as eight players during the World Cup: Cook, Huerta, Lavelle, Rapinoe, Sonnett, Quinn, Jordyn Huitema, and Angelina. The four players who suited up for the U.S. in two friendlies last week against New Zealand — Cook, Huerta, Lavelle and Sonnett — have not yet reported to OL Reign’s preseason, but are expected soon.
Rapinoe wasn’t in New Zealand, as she was still recovering from an ankle injury that had her in a boot two months ago, according to a few social media photos, but isn’t expected to be major. Midfielder Angelina is also not yet in preseason training as she continues to recover from an ACL tear suffered at the end of July. Her recovery is progressing well and she’s expected to feature for OL Reign in the regular season.
After a week of training at Starfire, the Reign will fly to Los Angeles for a training camp — similar to their trip to Arizona last year. Ride of the Valkyries will share more updates on the Reign’s preseason plans as they are identified. The NWSL regular season kicks off March 25, with a full schedule expected to be released in the next month.
Current OL Reign Roster by Position:
Goalkeepers (3): Claudia Dickey, Laurel Ivory, Phallon Tullis-Joyce
Defenders (10): Lu Barnes, Ryanne Brown, Alana Cook (NYR), Sam Hiatt, Shae Holmes (DRAFT), Sofia Huerta (NYR), Jimena López (INT), Alyssa Malonson, Phoebe McClernon, Emily Sonnett (NYR)
Midfielders (9): Angelina (SEI), Olivia Athens, Marley Canales, Jess Fishlock, Rose Lavelle (NYR), Quinn, Nikki Stanton, Olivia Van der Jagt, Natalie Viggiano (DRAFT)
Forwards (8): Bethany Balcer, Elyse Bennett, Jordyn Huitema (INT), Tziarra King, Veronica Latsko, Mariah Lee (NRI), Megan Rapinoe (NYR), McKenzie Weinert (NRI)
INT – International Slot
DRAFT – Players selected in 2023 NWSL Draft but not signed to a contract
NYR – Player has not yet reported for preseason training
NRI – Non-roster invitee
SEI – Season-ending injury list