As Reign FC prepares for the 2019 season, the team will be quick to forget last year’s ending.
The 2018 season ended exactly the way the team didn’t want to go out — a bitter 2-1 loss to the rival Portland Thorns. The Reign took an early lead with a goal by Jasmyne Spencer, then fell behind in the second half and couldn’t get another clear shot on goal. The loss took the team out of contention for the NWSL final, cutting short a season that almost ended in the league championship once again.
This year, not much has changed for the Reign. The lineup remains secure, and although many players will leave midseason to report to their national teams for the World Cup, the remaining club is full of veteran experience, especially along the backline. The goal for the Reign will be simple — to return to the playoffs, and to avenge last year’s loss.
Reign FC heads to Houston to open 2019 season
When: Apr. 14, 6 p.m. ET
Where: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Live stream: Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Sports app (U.S.); NWSLsoccer.com (international)
The buzz: The Seattle Reign kick off the season on the road this year, traveling to Houston to face a Dash team that will look relatively the same as it did last season. However, the head of the Houston program will be quite different. The team replaced head coach Vera Pauw — who led the Dash to a team-best 9-10-5 finish last season — with James Clarkson, a regular in the Dynamo program.
Clarkson was brought in to aide a Dynamo team that has struggled to break out of the bottom of the NWSL rankings since its inception, never finishing a season above fifth place. Despite the losing record, however, last year’s team brought a wealth of experience on the attack, resulting in a total of 35 goals, which outnumbers that of the Reign.
This attack is backed by forwards Rachel Daly and Kealia Ohai, but also allowed for the team’s weakness — defense, particularly in the transition — to be exposed often. While the Reign will need to watch for Houston’s wealth of talent on the attack — it added Sofia Huerta during the offseason and also boasts Kristie Mewis and Canadian international Sophie Schmidt — a quick transition could help the Reign take an early lead.
The game will be a reunion of sorts with former midfielder Christine Nairn, who played for the Reign in 2013 and 2017, and now is with Houston.
Other key matches
Seattle Reign vs. Orlando Pride, April 21 — The Reign come home early this season, playing in the second week of the regular season against the Pride, a team that struggled throughout last season. The pair played to three draws last year with 1-1, 0-0 and 1-1 finishes, and also drew all of its meetings in the 2017 season. This year, the Reign will look to clinch its first win over the Pride since July 2016.
Seattle Reign at Portland Thorns, July 5 — There isn’t another rivalry in the NWSL quite like this one. The Reign and the Thorns are positioned too close to one another and have enjoyed too much success in the past few years to not fuel a certain level of hatred. If the teams’ physical preseason meeting is any indicator, this game will continue to follow the pattern of past seasons’ games, which typically sell out. And since it will be well into the FIFA World Cup, both sides will be stripped of their international stars, providing a well-balanced shoot out.
See full schedule here.
Quotes & Notes
The biggest rivalry matchup of every NWSL season has already happened this year, after the Reign traveled to Portland for the 2019 Thorns Spring Invitational. The tournament gave the team an opportunity to play three preseason friendly matches to fully gear up for the upcoming season. It culminated in a Reign vs. Thorns game that saw 22 fouls and chippy play despite the friendly nature of the tournament.
“There is a friendly game and then there is a Thorns-Reign friendly,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski joked after the game.
The Reign finished with a 0-0 draw against Portland and finished top in the invitational with a 2-0-1 record.
Biggest offseason moves
- The Reign traded their fourth-round pick to Sky Blue FC for attacker Adriana Leon. In the 2018 season, Leon only played eight games for Sky Blue due to injury and did not record a goal or an assist, but she showed promise in 2017 with six goals and six assists.
- Last fall, the Reign acquired a first-round pick from the North Carolina Courage in exchange for their second-round pick and defender Merritt Mathias. The team then sent back that first-round pick in December to acquire Darian Jenkins, a young attacker with the Courage.
- After all of these trades, the Reign did not have a pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft.
- In March, the team signed defender Taylor Smith, who has seen 10 caps with the U.S. national team and previously played for the Newcastle Jets.
Forwards: Kiersten Dallstream; Shea Groom; Darian Jenkins; Jaycie Johnson; Nahomi Kawasumi; Megan Rapinoe; Jasmyne Spencer; Jodie Taylor; Beverly Yanez
Midfielders: Morgan Andrews; Yael Averbuch; Elise Kellond-Knight; Allie Long; Rumi Utsugi
Defenders: Lauren Barnes; Steph Catley; Celia Jiménez DelGado; Alyssa Kleiner; Kristen McNabb; Theresa Nielsen; Megan Oyster; Morgan Proffitt; Taylor Smith; Christen Westphal
Goalkeepers: Michelle Betos; Lydia Williams
See full roster details here.