OL Reign is without a goalkeeper after the National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft.
The league welcomed Racing Louisville FC as its 10th team, opening up rosters to take a maximum of two players each in Thursday’s event that was broadcast virtually. Louisville coach Christy Holly announced his own selections, taking Reign defender Julia Ashley with the No. 2 pick and keeper Michelle Betos as the 12th overall selection.
Coupled with keeper Casey Murphy being traded to the North Carolina Courage in October, the Reign doesn’t have a player to start in goal.
“That’s something we obviously have to solve,” Reign CEO and minority owner Bill Predmore said. “Losing Betos is tough. She was with us from Season 1 and has been an important part of the culture here. It’s a sad day for us but happy for her. It sounds like she going to get a chance to be the No. 1 down there and she’s certainly earned that opportunity.”
Betos was selected by the Reign in the NWSL supplemental draft in 2013 and was traded to the Portland Thorns in 2014 where she earned the 2015 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year award. Betos returned to the Reign in 2018 and has made 15 appearances across all competitions and collected five clean sheets.
The native New Yorker ruptured her Achilles to start the 2019 season and after a strong return in the NWSL’s Challenge Cup this past summer, Betos only played in one Fall Series match due to the decision to undergo a meniscectomy.
Betos, 32, is expected to return for the 2021 season.
Ashley, 24, was a trade acquisition for the Reign before the truncated 2020 season. She didn’t log a minute for the Reign, but Holly is familiar with the former University of North Carolina standout because he was an assistant for U.S. Soccer’s women’s U-23 team when Ashley was called up in 2018.
“As soon as we got in this position, she was definitely one of the first people we targeted,” Holly said during the broadcast. “Julia’s ability to get up and down the field to contribute in the final third to win on 1-v-1s are absolutely outstanding. The characteristics she brings to the field are very exciting for us.”
The Reign created a stir before the expansion draft by leaving forward Megan Rapinoe unprotected. Predmore said it was part of a complicated strategy not indicative of the club’s feeling toward any player.
Rapinoe opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and increased activism.
“Megan has been pretty vocal that she’d like to play in the Olympics,” Predmore said of the rescheduled event slated for summer 2021. “To do that, it’s going to require her to play club soccer and if that happens, the most likely place she’s going to do that is with the Reign.”
NWSL is preparing for a more traditional 2021 season where training camp would open in February. Whether fans will be permitted to attend games at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma depends on guidelines set by local government and health officials.
No fans attended the two matches at the facility in October.
The first priority is signing a goalkeeper. NWSL’s trade window opens Friday and Predmore said the club is evaluating multiple options.
“With Michelle’s departure, we are going to need to bring in a couple of goalkeepers,” Predmore said. “That will be one area that we focus on the next few weeks.”