The 2022 NWSL Shield Winners return to Lumen this year with one of the most intact rosters compared to the rest of the field.
OL Reign finished the 2022 season as the Shield winners, but kept the curse of the Shield intact when they fell to Kansas City in the semi-finals 2–0. For the casual NWSL fan, in the league’s 10 year history, no team has won both the NWSL regular season Shield and the NWSL Championship in a single season. Heading into the off-season, on the November 15th deadline OL announced its 18-person roster, not including the two players on loan—teams are allowed 26 players on the roster including supplemental players. Not included in that 20 were free agents Lauren Barnes, Megan Rapinoe, Nikki Stanton, and Tobin Heath as well as midfielder Marley Canales who was still in contract talks.
Since then, Marley Canales signed through the 2023 season. Three of the four free agents also announced re-signing with OL with Megan Rapinoe and Nikki Stanton signing through the 2023 season and Lauren Barnes signing through the 2024 season.
Pre-NWSL draft chaos brought forward Elyse Bennett and the 23rd overall pick in the draft from Kansas City in return for $150,000 in allocation money to the Kansas City Current. This move was likely in part due to Kansas City needing more allocation money to stay under the salary cap with their newest addition, Brazilian Debinha who was a free agent heading into the offseason. In reference to the trade, head coach Laura Harvey said, “Elyse was someone that we identified a year ago before she went to Kansas. So happy to get her back in the Pacific Northwest.”
Heading into the NWSL 2023 Collegiate draft, the OL Reign had the 23rd, 32nd, and 46th overall picks.
Mid-draft, the Reign traded their 23rd overall pick, a 2023 international roster spot, and a natural third-round pick in the 2024 Draft for the 19th overall pick from the Chicago Red Stars. With that pick, OL Reign selected defender Shea Holmes from the University of Washington. “She has an exceptional potential to be one of the best defenders that we’ve seen in a long time,” said Harvey post-draft.
When asked about the aggressive trade to move up four picks in the draft, Laura Harvey spoke to the press, “Well, I have someone in another team now that knows all my moves, so I have to make sure I picked before Mr. Laity.” Referencing the fact that long-time Reign assistant coach Sam Laity was announced as the new Houston Dash head coach in late December 2022.
Shortly before the Reign were expected to submit their choice for the 32nd overall pick, it was announced that the Reign had traded the pick to the Washington Spirit along with its natural first round draft pick in 2024 for the rights to ‘a player to be named later.’ Upon completion of the draft, the team announced the ‘player to be named later’ was in fact defender Emily Sonnett. One of the strengths of Emily Sonnett is her versatility. Sonnet will be able to slot in either as a center back or an outside back for the Reign.
With its last pick in the draft, OL selected midfielder Natalie Viggiano from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On the pick, Harvey said, “I think she suits the style of play that we like to do. So yeah, overall really happy.”
As the dust settles, OL currently has a fairly stacked roster with a lot of depth in every line that will come in handy at the end of an exhausting season. It also includes a wonderful balance of strong players who will be able to keep the level of play high during the 2023 World Cup while the national team players are abroad.
As of 1/17/2023
Goalkeepers (3): Claudia Dickey, Laurel Ivory, Phallon Tullis-Joyce
Defenders (9 + 2 LOAN): Ryanne Brown (LOAN), Alana Cook, Sam Hiatt, Sofia Huerta, Jimena López (INT), Alyssa Malonson (LOAN), Phoebe McClernon, Nikki Stanton, Emily Sonnett, Lauren Barnes, Shea Holmes
Midfielders (8): Angelina, Olivia Athens, Jess Fishlock, Rose Lavelle, Quinn, Olivia Van der Jagt, Marley Canales, Natalie Viggiano
Forwards (6): Bethany Balcer, Jordyn Huitema (INT), Tziarra King, Veronica Latsko, Elyse Bennett, Megan Rapinoe