The headline isn’t hyperbole. Vlatko Andonovski may genuinely be a wizard. After joining Reign FC last season and taking them to their first playoff appearance since 2015, Andonosvki has bettered that season with the 2019 version of the Reign and the playoffs haven’t even started yet.
With Allie Long, Megan Rapinoe, Steph Catley, Celia Jiménez Delgado, Rumi Utsugi and Jodie Taylor all set to miss significant time due to the World Cup, Andonovski had to not only fill the ranks with players from around the league, but also bring in rookies who could do a job while the stars were away. No one expected him to also lose four potential starters to season ending injuries in addition to a whole host of other players missing time throughout the season. The job he has done to not only weather those injuries but make the playoffs as well is nothing short of magical.
Harry Potter spells have worked for Harry and his friends and it seems like Vlatko Andonovski may have used some of them to work for him too.
Riddikulus - transforms Boggarts from something scary into something silly.
.@ReignFC sealed a second-straight playoff berth with a win over @ThornsFC. #SEAvPOR in 60 seconds. pic.twitter.com/te9NGRM3DU— NWSL (@NWSL) September 29, 2019
Portland Thorns fans may not like the comparison to Boggarts but that’s how most Reign fans view their fiercest rivals. Any time these two teams meet, it’s always a hard-fought, often physical battle with the Thorns coming in as favourites more times than not. This season, the Thorns were undoubtedly favourites every time they matched up against the Reign but were undone at every turn. Neither side has managed a regular season sweep since the NWSL’s inaugural season, when the Thorns took the series over the then-Seattle Reign, but this year, the Reign returned the favour. The Riddikulus spell worked a treat for Reign fans and made the Thorns seem like any other team lower down the table.
Revelio - revealing charm, which has several variations and applications.
When Bethany Balcer walked into the locker room in Tacoma, not many people had heard over, let alone were able to envision the season she was about to have. Now, fans are wondering how every team not only missed her but also how Vlatko Andonovski had seen enough of Balcer in preseason to know that she would develop at her current rate. With six goals and two assists in 23 appearances, including her most crucial one to date on Sunday against the Thorns, Balcer has more than made up for the absence of Taylor, Rapinoe and more over the course of the season. Balcer has been a revelation in the NWSL and is in the running for rookie of the year. Andonovski’s magic revealed a potential star inside a walk-on rookie player.
Protego - shield defense charm
Nothing could describe the Reign defense better than a Protego charm. The Reign signed Casey Murphy just before the season started to give themselves more depth at the goalkeeping position and it proved to be a pivotal signing as Michelle Betos picked up a season-ending injury during the first match of the season. Murphy stepped up to the plate and along with Lauren Barnes and Megan Oyster, has given the Reign a defensive platform that’s tied third-best in the league. Again, considering the number of absences the entire team has had over the course of the season, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Andonovski had used a Protego charm over his backline and goal.
In all seriousness now, watching the Reign battle through as many injuries as they have had has been a pleasure to watch for anyone looking at how the best coaches adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Not many teams could cope with the sheer amount of absences the Reign have had this season and still managed to grab a playoff spot. With one more game left this season, the Reign could potentially finish in third above the Thorns and set up a playoff date against the Chicago Red Stars. If they manage that as well, then we can truly say that Vlatko Andonovski is the cleverest wizard of his age.