On a brightly-lit Monday morning, Reign FC began a new era for the club in the south Puget Sound. With a crystal-clear Mt. Rainier looming over the practice facility, the players got their first chance to get back on the pitch ahead of the 2019 NWSL season.
“It feels great (to be back),” said Reign FC forward Beverly Yanez. “We’re super excited. Day one is always really fun. It’s fun to see everyone, it’s fun to get going. I think everyone’s excitement level is so high.
“It’s absolutely beautiful. For the first day, to have the sunshine, no clouds, Mt. Rainier. We couldn’t hope for better weather on the first day.”
Some of the faces on the training ground—like Yanez and keeper Michelle Betos—are instantly familiar, with the club returning 18 players from last year’s roster. Others, like Darian Jenkins and Shea Groom, are recent arrivals from other NWSL clubs, along with 10 non-roster players invited to train with the club.
“(A big goal) I think in preseason is getting to know each other,” Yanez said. “Getting to know each other both on and off the field. There’s a lot that goes into a preseason and it flowing really well as far as those players go. I think it’s getting out, meeting everybody. Taking the time to get to know people. That’s been a personal objective of mine. Get to know people better that are here. Just push to get the best out of ourselves that we possibly can. Push each other, help each other, lead each other. That’s what preseason is for.”
Back for his second season at the helm of the club, Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski shared Yanez’ enthusiasm.
“I am very excited to be on the field after a while and having most of the players back," Andonovski said. "I think that training went very well. Obviously, some of the players were a little bit nervous, but what I love the most was the level of intensity. They’re all in shape, they’ve all worked hard in the off-season and they seem ready to go.”
While nine of Andonovski’s players are away on international duty, the coach said that the club can still focus on the vital work necessary ahead of Reign FC’s season opener against the Houston Dash April 14.
“We don’t necessarily change a lot of what we have in mind,” Andonovski said. “We have to go over our tactical principles. We have to nail all of our principles down and once the (international) players are coming, as they’re trickling in, they’re going to pick up where we are and we’re going to have to do extra work with them just to make sure that they understand everything that they missed and that they know what to do.”
After Andonovski led Reign FC to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 with an 11-8-5 record last season, it is easy to suspect that expectations may be high within the club for the coming year. Andonovski, however, says the standards are based around the club’s level of play.
“As a team, even last year and this year, we never talked about winning or making the playoffs or winning a championship,” Andonovski said. “All we are talking about is being the best version of ourselves, individually and as a team. We’ll do whatever it takes to focus on the process and be the best that we can be. The outcome, we feel, is going to come.”
Reign FC open their preseason on the road with a match against UCLA in Norco, Calif. March 16. The club will then play three friendlies in Portland against the U.S. Women’s National Team U23s, the Chicago Red Stars and the Portland Thorns from March 24-30. The club’s final preseason friendly will be against the University of Washington at Husky Soccer Stadium on Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. PT.