TUKWILA, Wash. — Haley Kopmeyer knows that if things go according to plan she will not play in Sunday’s NWSL Championship. She also knows that she’d better be ready – just in case.
“You’ve got to know that’s your spot” the Seattle Reign FC goalkeeper said after the she trained Friday at Starfire Sports Complex. “It’s definitely a unique position but you train as if you are the first-team keeper. Anything could happen at any moment. There is a very big balance between me going out there and making sure I get everything I need and then as we approach game time, making sure Hope (Solo) gets what she needs.”
Kopmeyer was drafted 31st out of 32 in 2013 and served mostly as a second-string goalkeeper for the Reign. She was eventually waived when Solo returned and the club needed a roster spot to add a field player. After clearing waivers she was asked to remain in the area and train with the team, and eventually signed as the backup to Solo last fall.
“I kind of went into the offseason with the (thinking) I don’t know where the best place is going to be,” she said. “I’m going to see how the goalie situation shakes out and then I am going to try and try out somewhere. Laura (Harvey) gave me a call before that could happen and asked me to re-sign. I was thrilled.”
Kate Deines began last season as a starter for the Reign before injury knocked her season off stride. She grew up 20 minutes from Starfire, played college soccer at the University of Washington, and was the local tie to the Reign in 2013. When the season ended the club went on the open market and began adding players.
“There’s always that question mark,” she said about the team having enough room to keep her. “That’s just part of professional sports. There is always that unknown. Someone is always after your spot.”
Like Kopmeyer, Deines is a backup player in the 2014 Reign side, but as a field player there are more opportunities to get into matches. She got into 18 of the 24 regular season games, starting half the time. But Deines totaled less than 900 minutes. And then came the semifinal and the injury to right back Elli Reed. That allowed Deines to start in central defense with Lauren Barnes pushed out to the right.
“It was probably one of the biggest games of my life,” Deines said. “With Elli out that was a huge loss for us. She’s been rock solid for us all season. I had big shoes to fill. I just wanted to come in and do my role for the team. I could not be happier that we got the result and we’re in the championship because that’s what we’ve been working for all season long.”
Reed is looking like she’ll start on Sunday, meaning Deines is likely back on the bench. If she had her druthers her position would be center back, but the bench role is usually to sit on top of the back four to help kill the game.
“It really depends on the scenario,” Deines, 24, said. “For the most part I have a fairly good idea of what minute I’ll go in, who I’m going in for, and other responsibilities I’ll have when I go in. All of that is communicated fairly thoroughly and very up front to me. But anything can change at the drop of a dime so it’s just being ready to do whatever the team needs.”
It is different for Kopmeyer. Only an injury or red card to Solo will get Kopmeyer off the bench. But she must remain ready at a moment’s notice. Or as was the case earlier this season, when a legal issue threatened to take Solo away from the club.
Kopmeyer made her season debut June 19 when the Reign won in Boston in June. Solo was expected back three days later in Western New York, but was arrested in Seattle before rejoining the team. That gave Kopmeyer the start against the Flash and she played ahead of Solo the next weekend against Sky Blue.
“We showed in that Boston game that despite not having a lot of national team girls that we had people that could step up and play,” Kopmeyer said. “The second that happened, we said that we’re not sure what’s going to happen but we do know that next game Haley we’ll be in goal. We’ll be fine. If we play the way we’re supposed to play nothing should change. We took it head on and focused in, got some really good results despite everything that was going on around us. We just kept her in our thoughts and have supported her throughout all of this.”
Solo’s legal issues are not resolved yet but it has not affected her time with the Reign since those first few weeks. Kopmeyer played once more, a win over the Dash just after the Reign wrapped up the Shield.
So for Sunday, it’s business as usual for Kopmeyer, watching…and waiting.
“I just try to stay involved in the game, do as much as I can to try and read the game. Anything that from my side view might give me an advantage,” the 24-year old Kopmeyer said. “I get up at the 20-minute mark and just shake out, make sure I stay loose and make sure I’m feeling alright. It’s one of those things where the chances are…it’s never going to happen, but in case it does I’ll for sure be ready.”
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