Seattle Reign FC wants to play winning and watchable soccer.
Winning, because that is what’s good for the franchise; and watchable, because that would be good for professional women’s soccer.
The club begins its dual quest at 3 p.m. today, visiting the Chicago Red Stars for what will be both teams’ inaugural match in the new National Women’s Soccer League. The game will be streamed online at SeattleReignFC.com and NWSLsoccer.com.
“Ultimately, one franchise isn’t going to keep the league sustainable,” coach and general manager Laura Harvey said. “So it’s important that both on and off the field collectively as a league we work together to make that right because we have to learn from what’s happened in the past.”
What has happened in the past is that women’s professional leagues in the United States have come and gone. However, Harvey has experienced a different result across the Atlantic, leading the Arsenal Ladies to three English titles from 2010-12.
“I’ve been fortunate to be involved in leagues that are successful, fortunate enough to be involved in a club that’s been successful on the field but also off it for a number of years,” she said. “And I think from our franchise’s point of view, that’s a massive positive in terms of us moving forward. And hopefully, we can help make this league as sustainable as possible.”
Harvey hopes to duplicate those successes with a Reign team that must begin its season without its most recognizable stars.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo is out with a wrist injury. Midfielder Megan Rapinoe remains with the French club Olympique Lyon. Striker Amy Rodriguez will miss this season because of pregnancy.
However, opening day won’t wait, and owner Bill Predmore doesn’t accept that winning must wait.
“We know that we’re going to get a boost at mid-season,” he said. “… One of the best players in the world (Rapinoe) is obviously going to make a difference with the club, so that’s exciting. We’d expect Hope back sometime around then. Having the best keeper in the world playing for us is also going to be an obvious boost for us. So, long term we’re excited about that. In the short term, honestly I guess I’d say no, I’m not prepared for a slow start.”
Harvey takes the coaching philosophy that the absence of one player simply creates an opportunity for another. She cites midfielder Christine Nairn, the Reign’s first college draft pick, described as technical, good on the ball and with great vision. She also mentions midfielder Jess Fishlock, who followed her over from Britain.
Harvey also is counting on veterans of now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer, who are determined to take advantage of another chance to make their living in a domestic soccer league.
“Players who were in the WPS were so disappointed it left that they either left the sport or worked really hard,” she said. “And the ones who worked really hard were the ones who get their chance again.”
WPS went out of business before the 2012 season. Now, eight new franchises are trying to make the NWSL the league that finally sticks around through the use of salary caps and support from the soccer federations of the USA, Canada and Mexico.
“We’re starting small, which is good, which is where we need to be,” midfielder Keelin Winters said. “We’re at Starfire Stadium; we’re not at CenturyLink. I think we’re being more realistic right now. I think it’s really going to be more stable, which is exactly what women’s soccer needs right now. What we need right now is stability.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer