2024 S-2 Briefing: Seattle Reign FC

Fourth in line for these “S-2 Briefings” posts is the neighbor to the north, Seattle.

Here’s last year’s version, and let’s start by welcoming back…

Queen Grimhilde from her French exile.

Much as I’ve always loved giving this club Hell – there’s no tears as sweet as Seattle tears (except maybe The Weeping of the Damned…) – I’ve also always loved this badge.

The Thorns original is still my number one purely for sentimental reasons, but for pure aesthetics? The Dark Queen is the NWSL final boss.

Of all the things I loathe about the Aulas ownership the replacement of Grimhilde with that ridiculous cartoon lion was one of the most irritating,

Now nothing has changed about the ownership yet, mind. But at least the badge thing has been fixed.

As we’ve been doing this year, we’ll just link to the extensive background in last season’s post and note any changes.

Year formed: 2013
Still going in their twelfth season, tho as we noted, having gone through a slew of owners and venues

Last season the club played at home in the football-stadium-that-will-always-be-The-Clink-to-me, now “Lumen Field”. I’m reading that this season their “home” pitch is going to be Starfire, which is both kind of ironic – one of the first “big league” moves this club made was leaving the rec league venue that is Starfire for Memorial Stadium – and symbolic of the degree to which this club has always deserved better than the way they’ve been treated by the Emerald City.

One other change from 2023 is the name; they dropped the “OL Reign ‘cuz we’re just OL’s B-side” handle and moved sorta back to the original “Seattle Reign” only with an added FC.

The club is still owned by…

Owner: Olympique Lyonnais LLC.
As far as I know the organization that owns the Reign still looks like this:

The Predmores own even less of the club now; OL had 89% in 2023, they’re up to 97% now.

The Wikipedia entry lists someone named Vincent Berthillot as CEO. No idea who this dude is, some OL suit I suspect, so, whatev’.

Supposedly there’s a sale in progress, but I have no more information than that.

Head Coach: Laura Harvey
Harvey took over from the loathsome Farid Benstiti in 2021. This will be her third consecutive season back in the Seattle technical box.

Last year I noted that “…the Reign in all their various incarnations have been a successful club overall; out of their ten seasons (discounting the mockery of 2020) they’ve made the playoffs every season other than the first and 2016-2017.

Unfortunately for the Reign, that’s where they get knocked out; of the Final in 2014 and 2015, of the semifinal in 2018, 2019, 2021, and…”

The same thing happened in 2022; took the Shield, got knocked out by Kansas City in the semi (luckily for us – I think Seattle would have been a lot more dangerous in the Final).

2023 – 9-5-8 (32 points; 4th of 12) 29GF 24GA +5GD
Season summary: The Reign had a volatile season, yo-yoing up and down from the gate. Got as high as first – for a week – and as low as sixth several times.

They never dropped below the red line but their late season was pretty shifty – 2-4-2 over the last eight – and they never looked likely to really challenge for the Shield.

Once in the playoffs, though, they clawed their way to the Final, beating Angel City in the quarters and the Shield, San Diego, in the semi, both through grim 1-nil grinds. Their Final was another close match but also another Finals loss for Seattle, their third, making them the NWSL record holder for Finals beatings.
Meetings with Portland: 6/3/23 (0-2 home loss), 9/16/23 (2-0 away loss)

Outstanding players: Seattle’s scoring was a group effort.

Bethany Balcer shared top scorer with Veronica Latsko; each with six goals, two assists. Huitema had five goals (no assists), Fishlock four and one, Rapinoe four and five, Rose Lavelle five, and Jessica Fishlock four. Nobody else had more than two.

The real strength of OLR last season was the midfield and in back. The DMs, Sonnett, Quinn, and Fishlock, were outstanding, and the backline returned Alana Cook and Sam Hiatt with Lauren Barnes at left back and Sofia Huerta at right back to be the same wall in front of Phallon Tullis-Joyce they’d been in 2022.

Tullis-Joyce was…not awful.

In 2022 her defensive differential (xG against to concessions) was -0.29/game, just fractionally better than Kailen Sheridan. But she wasn’t up there with Haracic or Naeher or Bixby in the half-a-goal-per-game stratosphere.

Last season Tullis-Joyce wasn’t quite as good; she conceded 19 goals on a post-shot xG against of 19.5, about -0.03/game. Meaning that the backline was about as good as 2022 (about 1.04xG/game compared to 1.02xG/game) but Tullis-Joyce was saving Seattle about s single goal over the whole season instead of about one every three games as she had in 2022.

Now that T-J is gone her obvious replacement, Dickey, was better (DDiff -0.46) but only over six games. She’s still pretty much a blank slate.

How did they score?

Here’s the graphic; again, run of play in green, PKs in yellow, setpieces in blue. Seattle didn’t create an own goal:

The Reign also didn’t score a ton; 29 GF over 22 games was better only than the punchless Gotham among the playoff teams; hell, it’s a goal less than Kansas City scored, and only a single goal better than the Spoon, Chicago.

You’d think that with a middling-scoring attack and a lockdown defense that a lot of Reign games would have been low-scoring grinds and you’d be right; OLR scored more than twice on only three occasions last season, and two of the three were against the horrific Chicago Red Stars – an insane 5-2 beatdown in April and a 0-3 win in Chicago on the last regular season day.

The only other big goal explosion was a 4-1 beating of Angel City in Seattle in May.

But if the opponent managed to get in behind the Reign backline, you’d think they might have a tough time coming from behind. They got shut out seven times – we did it twice – and in the Final the top step proved to be that one goal and one step too far.

The key with them seems to be, as it’s been for some time, Balcer. We’re going to take a hard look at that.

Changes for 2024

The Reign lost some big names after the end of 2023. Rapinoe retired, Sonnett and Lavelle went to Gotham as free agents, as did Angelina to Orlando. Tullis-Joyce went to Manchester United in the WSL.

The Reign has struggled to replace their losses with equivalent names; the poster kid there is Julia Lester, veteran centerback dealt from Louisville. Decent player, but probably close to a like-for-like swap for Hiatt. I think their starting keeper will be Claudia Dickey, long time backup who played six matches in 2023 (and did well; 5GA on a PSxG of 7.8). Lots of that sort of “fairly decent NWSL-squad-player” energy there.

The one big signing this winter was Ji So-Yun, Korean international midfielder who was huge for Chelsea for eight seasons as a creative attacker. The real question is whether this So-Yun is the So-Yun who led Chelsea to six WSL titles and four FA Cups in the Teens and early Twenties.

If so? She could be huge. But…she’s also 32, so on the edge of her prime, and she’s never faced the PRO-style play here.

A big payoff…it it works.

The “book” on Laura Harvey has always been that she doesn’t respect the draft and notoriously distrusts the American college system to create quality players.

But in 2024 she had three picks; two second rounders and a high-fourth-round, and if Henderson is to be believed got value for them. The players drafted were:
Sam Meza (midfielder) from North Carolina – second round, #17 overall,
Maddie Mercado (midfielder) from Notre Dame – second round, #27, and
Makenna Carr (left back) from St. Mary’s – fourth round, #53

Henderson gushed “I like the Reign’s draft! I’m as shocked as you are given their drafting history!” after the first two. He knows his college players, so I kinda gotta buy that. The Carr pick elicited a yawn but, c’mon, fifty-third? So a shockingly-good Harvey draft? Did NOT have that on my Seattle bingo card.

Overall, though, it’s hard to see the 2024 Seattle squad as much stronger than 2023 outside of So-Yun. But did they get weaker and, if so, by how much?

How Did They Look?


I kid you not. Harvey ran her horses in the double pivot all season long, from Opening Day…

…to the Final…

…and everywhen in between (this is away at Houston in June):

The bodies change a bit between the poles of Huitema at CF and Tullis-Joyce in goal. Balcer and Lavelle move around with Latsko and Tziarra King. Fishlock and Sonnet trade DM with Quinn and Van der Jagt. The backline sees McClernon occasionally and a mix of Cook, Barnes, and Hiatt at centerback.

But it’s all still a Harvey 4-2-3-1

The only other set Harvey ran more than once was a 4-3-3. What’s interesting about that is she ran it out once in June and beat the baby seals Kansas City with it. Then it disappeared because, Harvey…

…until the autumn, when Seattle had return matches with two “big rival” clubs that had beaten the 4-2-3-1 in the first leg. So we saw it here in September…

…and then the Damned Courage saw it at Lumen in October.

Didn’t get results either time, mind, but hey, worth a shot.

Here’s the formation table:

FormationMatches (occurrence)WLD
4-2-3-121 (19 season, QF, F)984
4-4-21 (SF)100

Pretty straightforward.

One interesting stat; given the Seattle “low-scoring attack/solid defense” you’d think the draws would be scoreless. But only two lacked goals, one was 1-1, and the other two ended 2-2. Hmmm.

How they’ll look next year?

Here’s another look at Harvey’s preferred 4-2-3-1 only with the new faces:

I’m guessing So-Yun pulls strings at the #10 and Balcer goes out wide, but the alternative might work, too. We’ll have to see in March.

The big question I have is at the top of midfield; who’s gonna score? There;s no obvious monster, but if So-Yun is still the Chelsea So-Yun? She could jumpstart players like Latsko, Huitema, Balcer, and King and Seattle could score in waves.

If not? It could be a long scoreless season at Starfire.

Summing Up

The Reign have been a “rival” since at least 2018. I resisted importing the “A.C.E.S.” dynamic from BroSo for years, but it’s here now and then some. “Fuck Seattle”, as they say.

The question for the upcoming season is who has won the offseason arms race.

We are rebuilding and have had only one big offseason signing, Fleming. Seattle is still wrestling with a sale, and had only one big offseason signing, So-Yun. Our gaffer struggled with rosters and tactics, theirs had returning issues with winning in knockouts, stumbling at the top step for the third time in three tries.

Who’s nose is in front? I honestly don’t know.


I think this club could be bipolar, depending on how the squad gels and how Harvey shapes it.

Everybody is in form and Harvey drives them like a harness team? They could be top-three.

Half the squad is all to pieces and Harvey is baffled? Could be bottom-three.

Which is a long way around saying “I dunno”.

Will they be dangerous? Yes. No. Maybe. Gonna depend, both on them and us. I think this year we’re going to see real scrappy ties between these two.

Can the Thorns beat them? We did twice last season, but that was in another country and besides, those wenches are scattered all over hell.

I’d like to think we can, but it’s not going to be easy. We’ll have to see how we and they look out of the gate.

I sure hope so; as much as I worry about clubs like Gotham and San Diego, they’re good enough that if we keep things tight and still lose, fair play to them.

But losing to Seattle reeeeeally chaps me. Let’s not.

Next up: Angel City

John Lawes
Latest posts by John Lawes (see all)

2 thoughts on “2024 S-2 Briefing: Seattle Reign FC

  1. So Yun is the big question mark. Losing LaVelle, Sonnett and Pinoe is huge. Quinn fills the Sonnett spot, but a little less dynamic. Maybe So Yun fills or partially fills the LaVelle spot, but Rapinoe was an intangible asset. Barnes and Fishlock are great players, but a bit long in the tooth. Have they lost a step; maybe, maybe not.
    I am getting middle of the pack vibes from the 24 lineup. They will be hard to score on and that seems to be the only thing to take to the bank as collateral.

    1. I agree; is So-Yun is lit these people might run wild. If not..?

      I picked them to rule or ruin, but, yeah…they could also sort of stumble along in seventh or eighth. I really don’t have a good read on them.


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