Record: 13-3-4, 43 points
Finish: First in regular season, NWSL Shield winners; lost in final to FC Kansas City
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, or something like that. It was a copy-and-paste-from-2014 season for the Reign in 2015. After taking the 2015 regular-season title via the NWSL Shield, the Reign looked primed to take the league title that eluded them in 2014. FC Kansas City, however, had different plans, and in a rematch of the 2014 NWSL Championship, defeated Seattle 1-0.
Losses and Additions
Steph Cox retired and Megan Rapinoe is rehabbing an ACL injury and will be out for a good chunk of the season. Swedish international Antonia Goransson was released without playing a second for the club due to medical issues. Houston ended up with Amber Brooks in the trade that sent Meghan Klingenberg to Portland and backup goalkeeper moved on to Sky Blue FC. Other than that, the Reign retain the nucleus of a team that needs few changes.
Through the 2016 NWSL College Draft, the Reign picked up Carson Pickett, a Florida State University product who can play in defense or midfield. Head coach Laura Harvey added to an already unbelievable attacking unit by signing Dutch forward Manon Melis. Melis is the Netherlands’ all-time scorer and adds to the Reign’s embarrassment of riches.
It’s crazy to think that losing Hope Solo and perhaps Megan Rapinoe for Olympic duty won’t be a big loss, but the Reign are one of the few teams that will be least impacted by the absence of their national team players. Solo starts in goal, and when she’s with the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT), Haley Kopmeyer will handle goalkeeping duty. Look, there’s going to be a drop off no matter who is in goal behind a keeper of Solo’s quality but Kopmeyer is quality herself and is helped out by a defensive line that is often overshadowed by the midfield.
Keelin Winters, Jessica Fishlock and Kim Little return to form the league’s most potent midfield trio. Havana Solaun returns from injury with an upside we saw glimpses of during preseason. Up top, Beverly Yanez and Merritt Mathias are joined by Melis to form an attacking corps that will continue to give opposing defenses headaches and nightmares all season.
Off the Field
The Reign nabbed a new sponsor in Microsoft, and the logo will be featured on new uniforms unveiled in early April. Beyond the jersey sponsorship, the club and software giant formed a partnership to develop a platform for sports science and analytics using the Microsoft Cloud. The Reign will use Microsoft hardware and software to manage team operations and on-the-field analytics.
In May, the club will host Arsenal Ladies in an international friendly. Harvey and Little will welcome their former club, now helmed by former Western New York Flash assistant coach, Pedro Losa.
The It Factor
Laura Harvey. Never count out the Reign with Harvey at the helm. Her uncanny ability to pull off the necessary trade, as well as the rapport she’s built with her players, is what has propelled the Reign from misery in 2013 to the top of the table in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. There’s a scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in which Mr. Rooney looks on in abject horror at his telephone’s blinking light on hold. That’s what other head coaches and general managers in the league look like when told Harvey is on hold for them. Snatching your faves forever.