This Saturday night the Washington Spirit kick off the 2018 NWSL season against the Seattle Reign. Ahead of Saturday night’s game we talked with Susie Rantz from Sounder at Heart about what to expect from the Reign and how that will impact the Spirit. To check out our responses to Susie’s questions, click here.
1) Seattle has been through a lot of change this offseason, most prominently a new coach. What do you make of these developments and how will they affect Saturday’s game?
I think Jess Fishlock summarized it well at the season ticket holder event and kit reveal this week: “The decisions that have been made are to ensure this club gets back to being what it should be. We have a high expectation for ourselves, we have a high standard we have set to ourselves and for the last two years we have failed. We have been unsuccessful, so the change had to happen to make us be who we are.” There were a lot of changes, and fans saw some of their favorite players get traded away. That always hurts. We lost Laura Harvey, who was a hugely successful coach and fun personality. But the Reign also brought in Vlatko Andonovski, whose resume is equally as impressive and who knows how to get that elusive NWSL Championship trophy. And the changes the team made along the backline and in the midfield should only be seen as positive moves. Allie Long said it was the most talented group of players she’d ever played with. The biggest question will be how long it takes the team to gel together. With many players only getting a week and a half of training, and others heading to the Asian Cup in April, we might not see the best of Seattle Reign FC when the season begins. Hopefully, that momentum comes before August.
2) What element of the Reign do you think is the most underrated and how will that play into this game?
I think, especially with Vlatko Andonovski coming on board, the team’s simple ball movement is going to be an underrated strength this year. Short passes. Moving the ball forward in the attack. Simple, but effective balls. It isn’t always going to be flashy (unless Megan Rapinoe gets the ball and tries stuff), but Andonovski’s teams have always had consistent and smart movement on and off the ball. That style of play is going to suit players like Rumi Utsugi and Allie Long in the midfield. Long is at her best when she’s not trying to do too much, and Utsugi’s movement is -- in my opinion -- incredibly underrated. It won’t always wow you like the team did when Kim Little was in the midfield, but I do think it is going to result in more goal-scoring chances and possession for the Reign this year.
3) Both the Reign and Spirit have made some interesting acquisitions this winter. Which players are you excited to watch and why?
I am so sorry to say this, as I know you and others feel like she was underutilized in Washington, but I am really excited to watch Megan Oyster this season. She is such a smart, steady defender whose passing is really underrated. I think she’s going to get a lot of playing time, despite the fact that there is strong competition at centerback. With players like Megan Rapinoe and Naho Kawasumi putting balls into the box, and Steph Catley and Theresa Nielsen bombing up the flanks to whip in crosses, I think Jodie Taylor could have a fantastic season at striker. She has never had the kind of service that this team can provide her. Finally, Morgan Andrews had a great preseason and I think she is ready for a breakout year. Honestly, the list could go on and on. This team has a lot of exciting new talent, and I can’t wait until this season finally kicks off.