Mark this one down as another coup for Laura Harvey.
The Seattle Reign FC coach has, along with owner Bill Predmore, have been the most active NWSL team this offseason—they had to be after a seventh-place finish in 2013—as they’ve built what looks to be a serious championship contender on paper.
One of the major questions looming as Seattle’s roster makeover continues is the team’s—and Harvey’s—ability to make everything click. The talent is there now, but whether or not it can all come together remains a question.
Monday’s news that Megan Rapinoe will return to Seattle in time for preseason after terminating her contract with Lyon further answers that the Reign absolutely have the capability of coming out of the gate roaring.
A slow start and underpowered roster were two of Seattle’s biggest issues last year. No Rapinoe or Hope Solo until June meant an 0-9-1 start, miserable by any standards. At Friday’s NWSL College Draft, where Harvey also helped solidify her back line with University of Portland product Amanda Frisbie, Harvey acknowledged that her squad must gel in April, not July.
“Last year, which I think we didn’t do well, is we waited. We waited for Megan,” Harvey said Friday in Philadelphia. “And we can’t do that this year. So we’ve set about creating a roster where we are not waiting for Megan.
“We’ve just prepared, rather than waited (this season).”
Rapinoe’s presence alone wasn’t what turned the Reign from a dejected, winless team into a 5-5-2 squad down the stretch, but she was very visibly the catalyst.
Now she’ll be with the team from day one, linking up with new Reign striker Sydney Leroux, acquired via trade from Boston, and continuing her attacking midfield dominance with Welsh international Jess Fishlock. Scotland’s Kim Little is also in the mix now in Seattle.
These pieces all need to fit still, of course, but the likelihood of that is far greater with all hands on deck from March instead of June. The Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars will face that challenge as well. Christen Press’ addition to Chicago is the biggest offseason game-changer in this league, but she may show up as late as June as she tries to guide Tyresö to a UEFA Champions League title.
Houston’s Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg join her on that expedition.
Portland will be without Tobin Heath — who has hardly played since winning the Thorns the inaugural NWSL title after re-injuring her foot to do so—presumably until June as well. She continues to recover with PSG in France.
The effect on Rapinoe is minimal, too. She was always coming to Seattle in June and wasn’t headed back to Lyon next season, anyway. So now she returns a few months ahead of the original plan. She won’t miss any Champions League games—Lyon were shockingly ousted by Potsdam—and she can come away having played a year in France, gotten the experience and developed individually.
So Rapinoe’s inclusion from March can be seen as arguably the biggest news yet for Seattle’s championship hopes.
Of course, these galácticos pieces still need to work together. As Portland found out in 2013, but ultimately overcame in August, there are no guarantees there.