For three seasons Seattle Reign FC has had continuity in the central midfield in the form of the trio of Jessica Fishlock, Keelin Winters, and Kim Little. With few exceptions, Seattle coach Laura Harvey has been able to start said trio knowing Reign FC would be able to defend, attack, counter, and recover with consistency.
Keelin Winters announced her retirement late in the 2016 season. Some changes were coming. Today, the Reign FC and Arsenal Ladies announced the Kim Little was returning to England and her former side.
Little leaves the NWSL and the Reign as both the league and franchise leading scorer with 34 goals. Seattle grabbed two NWSL Shields and played in two NWSL finals with Little, where she also was voted the league MVP in 2014.
Seattle now faces an off-season with much more on field uncertainty than in the past few seasons. Harvey has been able to play a reasonably consistent line up for a few seasons; returning the bulk of her starters from 2014-16. There are options already on the roster, however.
Beverly Yanez has shown good form when in the midfield attacking role in parts of 2016. Although her early Reign career was primarily at striker, 2016 especially saw her moving about into different spots and playing well.
Havana Solaun got minutes early in the season with Fishlock injured and showed definite promise. After sitting out a full season previously, Solaun got an opportunity with the US U23s and in the Seattle midfield.
The Seattle roster still lists attacking options like Naho Kawasumi and Manon Melis as well as having Merritt Mathias capable of stepping into many different roles. Could a player like Lindsay Elston step up into the Winters role? What will a fully healthy and full season from Megan Rapinoe potentially bring? Losing the quality of a Kim Little hurts, but Seattle has roster depth going into the off-season. Seattle has not shown a shyness to make moves, having brought back Naho in mid-season in 2016.
Losing the BBC World Footballer of the Year Kim Little is no small thing. It’s October, but the NWSL off-season just got very interesting in Seattle.