It is first day at school vibes across NWSL clubs with pre-season training camps getting underway this week. OL Reign players and coaches have gathered to train at Starfire Sports Complex on their own dedicated grass field. The NWSL team will share the facility with the Seattle Sounders FC this year, before having it all to themselves in 2024, when the Sounders move to their Longacres compound. Ride of the Valkyries was told that progress on building out the team’s facilities like their interim locker room, training, and office spaces are on track with just minor things remaining to polish. Now, it’s just a matter of the club getting settled into their new space.
The grass field that OL Reign trains on is brand new and exclusively theirs, with a fence and team signage surrounding it. It’s hard to miss and will significantly boost the visibility of OL Reign to the thousands of people who visit the complex every week.
After training, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey and new players Shae Holmes, Elyse Bennett, and Natalie Viggiano spoke with media.
Head coach Laura Harvey
On the first week of training camp and when US national team players Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Emily Sonnett, and Rose Lavelle join the team: “I think the first week honestly, is seeing what this looks like for us the facility, how our day-to-day flow works because we’ve been used to something different. And then we get the US players back on Saturday and then we head down to LA, so I think when we go down there it’ll be a really good chance for us to really get into the details of who we are as a team on and off the field. The principles which we live by and work in, I think will be really important. So yeah, that’s sort of been the the first week — it’s been a little bit about finding out who we are off the field and how this [new training facility] is all going to function for us properly. And then I think we go to LA and we really nail things down on the on the pitch a little bit more.”
On forward Megan Rapinoe’s status: “She’s down in LA training. She couldn’t really get into full team activity this week. So she has all of the people that she needs down there... The fact that we’re going there, it made sense for her to just stay down there, get her individual time in. So when we get on the grass in LA, she can be back with the team fully.”
On starting a training camp and season for the first time without assistant coach, now Houston Dash head coach, Sam Laity: “Different. We message, actually, quite a lot still. He will always be the DNA of the Reign. It’s hard when someone’s been here for over 10 years to not be that way. So, I think it felt a little weird not having him around and I’m sure it will be really weird when we eventually play against each other. We’ve spent so much time together over such a long period of time that he’s always been someone I would pick up a phone and have conversations with on different levels, so I’m sure that will continue. But I might have to keep a few more secrets than I used to.”
On Alyssa Malonson and Ryanne Brown’s development during their loan spells at Denmark’s FC Nordsjælland: It was perfect. It was exactly what a loan should be. They went out there, they played a ton of games, they got a ton of exposure, which is what they needed. And then they wanted to come home so we were really happy that we could bring them back and they look in good shape, which is great.
Defender Shae Holmes
On having been around the team last year through training sessions and previously coached by Harvey in the US U-20 level easing the transition to the pro game: “Yeah, 100 percent. I think, for sure, speed of play and just in general, it has been a comfort factor, knowing [Laura Harvey] as a coach and her style and what she expects. Also, I played with Laurel [Ivory] at US camps, and Claudia Dickey. I played with Olo [midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt] in college, so I just think all that has been a good comfort blanket as well to be here. So, I know what they expect, I know the standard and yeah, I’m just excited to continue to be around them again.”
On if having squad number 25 has any significance: “Well, number 11 I’ve had since I was literally U11, ever since starting competitive soccer, so that’s always been my heart, but I knew obviously Sofia Huerta wears that proudly, so I was like, ‘For sure, that’s hers’. So, 25 came from — my dad actually played college football at Colorado State and that was his college number all through it, so we’ve just grown up with that and it’s a little bit of home in my heart. So, it was definitely a thought-out pick.”
Forward Elyse Bennett
On being back in Washington state (Bennett played at Washington State University from 2017 to 2021): “Yeah, I’m just super excited, honestly, just for a fresh start and a new team. I know that Reign has a really great culture and the team has been nothing but welcoming, so I’m just super excited to be here and obviously, I went to school in Pullman but it’s good to be in Seattle.”
On having nerves as being one of the new faces on the team: “Yeah, I would say maybe a little, but I feel like that’s to be expected just joining a new team and meeting new faces. Like I said before, they are very welcoming, so I would say that the jitters have kind of subsided since yesterday.”
On if she has any individual goals for this season: “I would say I don’t have strict set goals for myself. I think my goal going into every season is just to play at my highest capacity and do whatever I can to help the team win, so I would say that my goals haven’t really changed much and I’ll be giving my best foot forward every single day I step out on the pitch.”
Midfielder Natalie Viggiano
On getting the call on NWSL Draft Night: “I was sitting watching with my family and I got a call from Laura and I remember I couldn’t even answer the phone right away. I started kind of shaking and I had tears in my eyes. It just is such a surreal moment and your dreams are coming true since — you think about it since you were a little kid, so it’s pretty cool.”
If the surname Viggiano sounds familiar to you, it’s because Natalie’s older sister Marisa also plays in the NWSL. Drafted in 2019 by the Orlando Pride, Marisa now plays for the Houston Dash.
On any advice from older sister Marisa about the transition to the pro game: “We’ve been training together this offseason, so I was able to soak up as much information as she had for me over that time. She told me, ‘Keep working hard, listen to those around you because you want to learn as much as you can in those situations’. So, I feel like just working hard, listening and trying my best.”
On being teammates with fellow Wisconsin Badger Rose Lavelle: “Yes, I’m very excited and I feel like she’s just a great player to learn from, so I’m excited to be able to go from watching her to playing with her as well.”
- Aside from midfielder Angelina, who is still recovering from an ACL injury, everyone participated fully in the training session.
- Forward Veronica Latsko participated in some scrimmage sessions at right back.
- Defender Jimena Lopez played centerback in a 10-v-10 scrimmage.
- Non-roster invitees Mariah Lee and McKenzie Weinert played left forward across scrimmage sessions.
- While she hasn’t seen the full schedule, Harvey indicated that teams might only be without their national team players for a few games during the World Cup: “We’ve, in years past, missed 10-plus games without them and it’s definitely not going to be at that level. I don’t know exactly how it will end up folding out, but I think we’re looking at maybe half that at worst.”