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2015 NWSL Preview: Seattle Reign FC

Kim Little looks to replicate her 2014 MVP showing this season. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Kim Little looks to replicate her 2014 MVP showing this season. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

So much went right for Seattle Reign FC in 2014, but still the offseason began with bitter disappointment thanks to a single match.  Laura Harvey, the club’s head coach and general manager, says she has yet to watch it in full.  She added though, that some of the players have watched it about 25 times.  The match of course, was the NWSL Championship, a 2-1 loss to FC Kansas City that left the Reign as NWSL Shield winners that left a legacy of near perfect play (16 wins, 6 draws, just 2 losses) but ultimately short of winning the league crown.

“We haven’t spoken too much about last season,” Harvey said, “because to be honest we can’t change any of it.  A lot of it was positive, but we have to make sure we build on last season and we don’t take anything for granted that the regular season will go as well as it did.”

[MORE: Team-by-team previews of the 2015 NWSL season]

Harvey, who quipped at the annual NSCAA Women’s Soccer Breakfast in January that she had to explain the playoffs to some of her international players, said it remains an adjustment to have not won the championship on the merits of taking 75 percent of their possible points.  “The way it works is very hard for a non-American to swallow.  What you do over 20 games (24 last season) is important because it gets you into what you ultimately want.  That’s what the regular season is there for.  We have to be conscious of that.”

Additions/Subtractions

The biggest loss is Nahomi Kawasumi who took the league by storm in 2014 and is among the best crossers of the ball in the women’s game.  The biggest immediate additions are Merritt Mathias and Amber Brooks, both acquired on the trade market.  Mathias can play all three lines and Brooks will add depth in midfield.  Scottish defender Rachel Corsie is awaiting her transfer certificate and Danish forward Katrine Veje is set to arrive July 1.  The other big addition, Abby Wambach, has not indicated she will go back on her decision to sit out the entire 2015 NWSL season.  Amanda Frisbie was moved in the Wambach trade but can hardly be considered a subtraction after missing last season with an injury. Sydney Leroux was the biggest piece moved in that trade.

Sure Things

Harvey says she wishes some of her defenders and midfielders were going to the World Cup.  Being that they are not, the back four of Elli Reed, Kendall Fletcher, Lauren Barnes and Stephanie Cox will start the season as the league’s standard-bearer.  Corsie will add depth and flexibility and could well force her way into the first team.  The same applies to the midfield, where 2014 NWSL MVP Kim Little and Jessica Fishlock’s countries did not qualify and Keelin Winters has dropped off the United States’ radar.  Recently acquired Brooks will push for playing time and could even persuade Harvey to spend more time playing with four midfielders.  The relative stability of the Reign’s back line and midfield will make them NWSL’s most stable club from the midfield back.

World Cup Questions

Haley Kopmeyer will be asked to do more than a season ago when she proved a capable backup goalkeeper to Hope Solo.  Caroline Stanley stands to be the third keeper, likely under amateur status to start off.  But the real hole during World Cup time will be at forward.  Megan Rapinoe is a virtual lock to be in Canada while Kawasumi and Leroux are no longer on the roster (Harvey said there is mutual interest in bringing Kawasumi back to the Reign but seemed pessimistic it would happen any time in 2015).  Wambach is a major question mark and Veje’s July 1 report-date puts her on similar footing with the World Cup players.

Enter Beverly Yanez.  Last year she was Beverly Goebel and she played in Seattle on loan.  Now going by her married name, Yanez is on contract to the Reign and will play a pivotal role in filling the back of the net while the World Cup players are gone.

“I think her role is as big if not bigger than it was last season,” Harvey said.  “She played a huge role last season due to Megan Rapinoe’s injury.  Her, Naho, and Syd took the brunt of the work for the front three.  Bev, Dani Foxhoven, Merritt Mathias, Kiersten Dallstream, it’s a great opportunity for all of them.

“Bev was excellent for us last year.  Her work rate, her attitude, everything she brought to the team was fantastic.  I hope she can turn all that hard work into goals too because she’s come back from Japan in fantastic form and is really hungry to be better.  That ultimately for me shows why we wanted to bring her back.  She could have a vital role this season for sure.”

Outlook

With a seasoned back line and midfield ready to play through all 20 matches, the Reign are the side to beat again in 2015.  They’ll have to put the disappointment of losing the final behind them, something Harvey believes is off to a fine start.  “If we play football like we did last year we have a good chance of being successful again, but we can’t take anything for granted.  We have to make sure we are hungry and want to succeed.  In fairness to the players, in pre-season that’s what they’re showing so far.

“We’ve got ourselves in a good position because we’ve been able to keep a majority of this roster together from last season together.  We’ve obviously made a few little tweaks.  We feel confident we have a group of players who are hungry to try to achieve something more than what we did last year.”

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