Reign FC’s Sakura “Sakky” Yoshida made her Reign FC debut in the club’s 2-0 win over UCLA on Saturday, March 16, when she entered the match in the 75th minute.
The 18-year-old, who recently graduated from high school, is the first Reign Academy player to receive an invitation to the team’s preseason camp. It has been a remarkable start to the year for Yoshida, who recently returned home from a three-match stint with the U.S. U20 Women’s National Team in Spain.
The Redmond, Wash. native found that the level of competition with the national team was a good way to elevate her play before she returned home to train with Reign FC’s first team.
“The players with the national team, there are a lot of college kids,” Yoshida said Monday. “Players who went to the World Cup with the U17s and U20s. We played against France, Germany and Sweden. A lot of them are pros, so it was good experience playing against them too.”
Having finished high school a semester early, Yoshida had initially planned on joining the University of Oregon for the school’s spring season. Her plans changed, however, when Reign head coach Vlatko Andonovski invited her to the club’s preseason training.
Yoshida says she dreams of becoming the Reign’s first homegrown player.
Standing at five-foot-one-inch, Yoshida has become accustomed to playing with larger opposition, adapting her game as necessary.
“You can’t be afraid to go against bigger players,” Yoshida said. “That’s one of the things I remind myself of. You have to think a couple steps ahead to try and read the game. Not necessarily avoiding a tackle, but keeping yourself from getting in that situation. Winning the ball before it comes to a tackle; cutting the ball off before the player gets there and reading the play.”
Yoshida’s ability to thrive amongst bigger competition has been refined in competitive training environment offered by the Reign Academy, which she joined as a U17. Still, just two weeks of training and playing with professional players has already helped Yoshida develop her skills even further.
“It’s really crazy,” Yoshida said. “Going from watching players like Megan Rapinoe on the TV to playing with them is unbelievable. There’s a lot to learn. Allie Long gives me a lot of advice. I’ve learned so much to add to my game. I’m really thankful that they’re helping me to get better.”
While her spot on the first team is far from assured, Yoshida is proud that she has the chance to potentially become the first academy player to sign a pro contract with Reign FC.
“It’s super exciting,” Yoshida said. “I’m so humbled by this opportunity. I’m thankful to Vlatko and (Reign FC owner Bill Predmore) for giving me a chance. I just want to make the most of it.”