Fletcher, Reign FC backline maintain consistency in early action

By Joe Veyera

As rosters throughout the NWSL revamped during the offseason, most teams looked to add talent on defense. The idea was simple enough: a goal prevented is worth as much as a goal scored.

In Seattle, a backline that allowed a league-low 20 goals — 12 ahead of the next lowest total and 21 clear of the NWSL average — clearly wasn’t broken. In turn, there was nothing to fix.

Reign FC did add depth with the signings of Scottish international Rachel Corsie and Michelle Cruz, but the core remained intact.

The entire defensive starting quartet of Kendall Fletcher, Elli Reed, Stephanie Cox, and Lauren Barnes returned for 2015, and thus far are the only players on the Reign FC roster to start all five games and play every minute of action this season.

For Fletcher, returning to a group that saw great success last year made the transition back to league play after the offseason that much easier.

“There’s a comfort level there,” Fletcher noted. “It felt great stepping back in after the offseason … I think we gel really well, we play similarly.”

The familiarity the four have with each other after last season also cuts down on the early-season adjustments.

“I think we kind of picked up on each other’s tendencies last year,” Fletcher explained, “but it’s really nice to come back in and already have that established.”

The durability that the four have shown in the lineup this season also comes as no surprise. Last year, they anchored the backline for a combined total of 83 starts, 12 regular season games and the 2015 NWSL Championship.

In addition to solidifying the backline, Fletcher and Barnes have also come through on the other end of the field, each notching a goal in the first five games. Indeed, 15 percent of the team’s offensive output has come from the center backs.

Ultimately, Fletcher said she feels a connection with her teammates that makes being a part of Reign FC’s defense all the better.

“I love playing with those girls,” Fletcher said. “It’s one of the most fun backlines I’ve ever played with, so I feel honored to be back there with them.”

To see Fletcher and Reign FC square off next Friday against the China Women’s National Team in an international friendly on the Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium, buy tickets at ReignFC.com.

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