A Preseason Look at the OL Reign
Who are they?
The OL Reign is one of eight inaugural NWSL clubs. They were founded in 2012 by Bill and Teresa Predmore as the Seattle Reign FC. In 2020, OL Groupe, which is the parent company of Olympique Lyonnais in France, became the team’s majority owner and rebranded the team’s name, badge, and colors. The Reign have never won an NWSL championship, falling twice in the final but won back to back NWSL shields for finishing number 1 at the end of the regular season in 2014 and 2015. The team’s home field has also moved this season to Lumen Field which is also home to the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) and the Seattle Sounders (MLS) bringing the Reign back to Seattle after moving to Tacoma for the 2019-2021 seasons.
The OL Reign badge looks very similar to that on the OL teams in France, following the same color scheme and idea with the lion mascot. The colors are red, blue, and gold. The badge consists of a lion in the middle and is surrounded by a gold border. At the very top of the badge, OL REIGN is written across it. The Reign revealed their alternate jerseys for this year, named ‘Honor’ which pays homage to all former OL Reign players over the past ten years. The names are written on the jersey down the center in between a red and blue stripe representing the club’s colors.
Their head coach is once again Laura Harvey after former head coach Farid Bensitti resigned during the 2021 season. Harvey was the coach of the Reign from 2012 to 2017 before stepping down in 2018. The job was given to now USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovoski. After Andonvoski accepted the USWNT job, Bensitti was named head coach in January 2020 and served until July of the 2021 season. Harvey agreed to come back for the Reign. She took over in August and was successful in turning the Reign’s 2021 season around, bringing them to second place in the league and taking them to the semifinals of playoffs before losing to the eventual champions, the Washington Spirit.
Alongside Harvey is assistant coach Sam Laity who served as interim head coach during the period between Bensitti and Harvey. Laity has been with the Reign since their inaugural season. During his interim period, he thoroughly impressed and started the turnaround for the Reign after only seven points in seven games under Bensitti. Laity has received high praise from many players within the OL squad, with Sofia Huerta saying “Sam’s been in the league for a long time. It’s easy to perform when you have a lot of direction, and he gave us that,” and Bethany Balcer commenting that “Sam gave us a lot of freedom to do what we do best. He really opened it up to us to let us figure things out. He was really good about guiding us and giving this team our identity back.”
So far this year for the Reign, they are undefeated in their first three games of the challenge cup, having drawn 1-1 with rivals Portland Thorns, beaten expansion squad Angel City FC 3-1, and beaten Portland 1-0 before entering the international break this last week. The Reign will play expansion squad, San Diego Wave FC twice and Angel City once to finish the challenge cup after returning from the international break. The Reign will look to continue to stay at the top of their group and win the West Division. The Reign will kick off the regular season with a rematch of last year’s semi-final against the Washington Spirit on May 1.
Meet the Players
The Reign currently have 24 players on their roster, with the large majority of their core players returning to or staying with the Reign. They did lose a few pieces of last year’s squad due to expansion drafts, trades, and loans ending but their main core remains the same. They added 6 rookies this season, with three coming from this year’s 2022 NWSL College Draft. Two were signed undrafted and one was drafted last season and acquired by the Reign via trade after opting to play her spring season in college last year.
The Reign had three players on loan from their parent club, Olympique Lyonnais Féminin in Sarah Bouhaddi, Dzsenifer Marozsán, and Eugénie Le Sommer. These players added extra star quality to the Reign’s roster and left them with a gap to fill at starting goalkeeper in their absence. The Reign added two rookie keepers to their squad in former UNC standout Claudia Dickey and former UV standout Laurel Ivory. Dickey and Ivory will be behind Phallon Tullis-Joyce who formerly played for Stade de Reims in France and signed for OL Reign in April of 2021. Tullis-Joyce has already impressed in the challenge cup for the Reign and looks to remain their number 1 keeper.
OL Reign still has three players from their original roster with Megan Rapinoe, Lauren (Lu) Barnes, and Jess Fishlock. These players are OL Reign through and through and have all been captain of the club at some point in time. Barnes is currently the captain with Rapinoe being her co-captain. Fishlock is the reigning MVP of the NWSL and looks to be in fine form at the start of the Challenge Cup.
OL Reign has one of the youngest forward groups in the league but one of the best. With the likes of Bethany Balcer, Tziarra King, and Ally Watt who returned late last season from an ACL injury, the speed and technical and finishing ability of these players should allow the Reign to continue to put up goals, especially with someone like Sofia Huerta, who has blossomed under Laura Harvey at right-back, serving in crosses for them.
The Reign added defender Phoebe McClernon from the Orlando Pride, defender Sinclaire Miramontez from Racing Louisville, midfielder Nikki Stanton from the Chicago Red Stars, and forward Veronica Latsko from the Houston Dash this offseason. These four players may not be starters for the Reign but will add depth to their roster in case of injury or during the international break when their usual starters may be away.
What do I want to see?
The Reign have consistently been at the top of the NWSL but have not been able to break through and win themselves a championship. I think with the roster they have, this could possibly be the year for them. With their experienced players and younger talent, and an experienced coach especially in the NWSL in Laura Harvey, it seems as though this team will continue to dominate throughout this season. In addition, being at Lumen Field, it will be amazing to see them get to play on a field that isn’t a baseball field for the first time in over two years. This move to Lumen should also help grow the game of women’s soccer in Seattle despite it having been so long established.
After an up-and-down 2021 season, I also hope to see consistency from this squad with having an established coach. The Reign struggled at the beginning of last year but turned it around when Laura Harvey came in. Harvey being with the team from the start of the season should really help this team start strong and continue strong throughout the regular season.
In the final three games of the Challenge Cup against the San Diego Wave and Angel City, I want to see a bit more rotation in the lineup to try out some younger players and see how different players will work together before plunging into the regular season.
Goalkeepers: Claudia Dickey, Laurel Ivory, Phallon Tullis-Joyce
Defenders: Lu Barnes, Alana Cook, Sam Hiatt, Sofia Huerta, Alyssa Malonson, Jimena López (INT), Phoebe McClernon, Sinclaire Miramontez
Midfielders: Angelina, Olivia Athens, Jess Fishlock, Rose Lavelle, Quinn, Olivia van der Jagt, Nikki Stanton
Forwards: Bethany Balcer, Zsanett Kaján (INT), Tziarra King, Veronica Latsko, Megan Rapinoe, Ally Watt