Expectations were never high for the Seattle Reign in 2013, but probably no one expected things to be as bad as they were for much of last season. The good news is that their struggles happened before quite a few things changed.
Before Megan Rapinoe committed to a full season. Before Hope Solo was totally healthy. Before Sydney Leroux swapped Boston Blue for Seattle Slightly Different Shade of Blue. Before Laura Harvey just couldn't stop making trades. The 2014 Reign: just like the 2013 Reign, except not at all.
Head Coach: Laura Harvey, second season
Where we left off: Seattle finished the 2013 season second from the bottom, with a 5-14-3 record.
Still Solo, But Less Alone: Another Memoir of Hope: Seattle started 2013 with a serious goalkeeping problem. Hope Solo was injured, and neither Haley Kopmeyer nor Michelle Betos was ever quite good enough to compensate for a whole lot of lackluster defending. Solo eventually got healthy and did enough to keep the Reign from suffering some truly embarrassing losses, but things never truly turned around for Seattle. Betos landed in Portland in the offseason, but both Solo and Kopmeyer return to the Reign for a second go-round. Except this time there's something that actually resembles a defense in front of them. And maybe some offensive support too. Did we mention Laura Harvey made a lot of offseason moves? Like, a lot?
All shored up: Seattle allowed a league-worst 325 shots in 2013, but that was before Harvey went all player-acquisition-crazy. The 2014 edition of Seattle's defense features a few pieces from last season's team -- Elli Reed, Lauren Barnes and Kate Deines are all back -- but Harvey also made moves to acquire a few more experienced players. Canadian International Carmelina Moscato came via trade with Boston, and Kendall Fletcher returns to the U.S. after spending her post-WPS years playing in Australia and Sweden. Stephanie Cox, who featured in the Reign's back line in the latter part of last season after taking time off for the birth of her first child, also returns, and this time for a full season. The veteran presence of Moscato, Fletcher and Cox, as well as the addition of seventh overall draft pick Amanda Frisbie -- a standout defender at Portland -- should give Seattle a much more stable back line -- and maybe keep Memorial Stadium from looking like one of those boardwalk games where you shoot tennis balls out of a tank.
Seriously, can one of you just get a funny hat or something?: One of the best things about Seattle in 2013 was Jess Fishlock. The Wales international quickly became a fan favorite with her fearless style of play. Fishlock finished second on the team in scoring with four goals, and carried a huge amount of the load offensively until hair twin Megan Rapinoe joined the team halfway through the season. This time around, Fishlock will have some support right from the start, with Rapinoe making the surprise decision to leave French club Olympique Lyonnais early -- a move that will allow her to put in a full season in Seattle. But the Reign's new look doesn't stop there. Scottish international Kim Little, who played for Harvey at Arsenal in the FAWSL and former Boston Breaker Mariah Nogueira were both picked up by Seattle in the offseason. They'll join Rapinoe, Fishlock, the always solid and underrated Keelin Winters, and someone named Sydney-something on a Seattle side that suddenly looks like a real offensive threat.
And Sydney Leroux and Danielle Foxhoven too: In what was perhaps one of the biggest offseason trades in the league's young history, Harvey managed to grab Sydney Leroux from Boston in exchange for Betos, Kristie Mewis and a pair of draft picks. Leroux had 11 goals for the Breakers in 2013, just one behind Golden Boot winner Lauren Holiday. The leading scorer for Seattle in 2013? Rapinoe, who tallied five goals while playing only 12 games for the Reign. The addition of Leroux will give a much-needed spark to an offense that previously couldn't have started a fire with a full book of matches in a large pile of dry brush. Seattle also managed to acquire Danielle Foxhoven from Portland, because Laura Harvey. Just. Couldn't. Stop.
In conclusion: Don't expect a repeat of 2013. Unless you were expecting a website with any kind of useful information that isn't pictures. But alas, you can't have everything.