Reign FC’s players from Spain, Australia and Japan all returned to the club from the Women’s World Cup in France Monday. They were welcomed back by their teammates and coaches as the club begins preparations for a road match against Portland Thorns FC on Friday, July 5.
“I think it’s exciting to have them back in the locker room,” defender Steph Cox said. “To know our roster and bench is a little bit fuller is great. I think that will give us a huge boost of energy and confidence since this is our third road game in a row.”
Keeper Lydia Williams, who started all four of Australia’s World Cup matches, is glad to be back to a normal schedule.
“It’s good to be back,” Williams said. “Most of the girls have been around for a while, so it’s nice to reconnect and get back to club play, which I guess is more normal than a World Cup.”
Williams made one appearance for Reign FC prior to her departure for the World Cup.
Fellow Australian Steph Catley cited the warm reception from teammates in helping her get reacclimated after international duty.
“I’ve missed them a lot,” Catley said of her teammates. “Obviously, It’s way too early to be back, in my opinion. I’ve missed the girls a lot, though, and it feels like coming home. They’re all so welcoming.”
Catley, limited by a calf injury in the early part of the season, made her debut in Reign FC’s 2-1 win over Sky Blue FC on May 18.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski recognizes that while some of his internationals may be dealing with frustration after being eliminated at the World Cup, their quality will be a benefit as his side looks to extend its seven-match unbeaten streak.
“On the one hand, I feel bad for them,” Andonovski said. “We all hoped that they would get as far as possible in the tournament. On the other side, having them back helps our team and makes us better. They’re all good, quality players. I’m excited to welcome them back.”
Still, even as players battle international frustration, the excitement of a rivalry week may help spur them back into form with their club.
Celia Jiménez Delgado, who has started all four of her appearances for Reign FC this season, certainly feels that is the case.
“I’m really excited,” Jiménez Delgado said. “Since we got done with the World Cup, I was looking forward to this moment. I’ve missed the players so much, the environment in the locker room and I’m really looking forward to playing Portland. It’s going to be the first time for me playing an official game against Portland in this rivalry. It’s going to be an awesome experience to be a part of.”