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Veronica Latsko embraces change, veteran leadership with OL Reign

Photoo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

Veronica Latsko grew up “detesting” the nickname ‘Ronnie.”

Latsko, who hails from Pittsburgh — specifically Venetia — and played high school soccer at Peters Township, grew up being called her given name and ‘V.’ However, that changed whenever she joined OL Reign this past offseason.

“There’s a lot of one-syllable names that sound like ‘V,'” Latsko explained to Pittsburgh Soccer Now. “So when I got there, I told them everyone calls me, ‘V.’ And then all of a sudden the name ‘Ronnie’ got thrown out, and I detest that name. But it has stuck. Laura [Harvey] and Sam [Laity] told me that’s my name, and I’m stuck with it. I feel like I’m going through an identity crisis… I am forever ‘Ronnie on the Reign.’”

Despite the new and unwelcome nickname, Latsko has settled in well with OL Reign. In her fifth year in the National Women’s Soccer League, Latsko decided to journey away from the Houston Dash, where she spent four seasons previously and who she won the first-ever NWSL Challenge Cup with.

The move was one that she needed, she told PSN, because she needed to be pushed out of her comfort zone.

“In Houston, I loved the team, the city,” Latsko said. “It was very much a home for me for four years. It was very difficult deciding whether to stay or leave and try something else. I talked to my friends, my boyfriend, my parents, and all of them were really supportive in what I was deciding. At the end of the day, I was like, ‘Well, I could easily finish my career in Houston and be happy,’ but I would also wonder what else there is, what else I could do and how far I could be pushed.

“I really needed something like OL Reign to get me out of my comfort zone, get to a new city where I don’t know anyone, I don’t know the team and see how much I can grow as a person and a player. At the end of the day, I wanted to take that risk.”

Since her arrival in the Seattle area, Latsko has started eight of her 11 appearances, totaling 609 minutes. She’s still looking for her first goal for the Reign in regular-season play. Latsko did score for the Reign in the Challenge Cup, where she started all seven of the club’s appearances, notching her first OL goal against Angel City FC.

Latsko is not lost among the vast and deep chart of forwards on the team. OL Reign is abundantly blessed with players like Jess Fishlock, Megan Rapinoe, Bethany Balcer and just recently added Canadian international Jordyn Huitema from Paris Saint-Germain. Although there are some big-name players on the roster — especially at forward — Latsko said that head coach Harvey does a good job of shuffling her players.

“Everyone has something different to bring to the table,” Latsko said. “When you’re playing different teams, it can require different qualities. I think, as a manager, it’s really important how you manage those players. We also have a season that is so difficult on your body. You can’t play 90 minutes every single game. There’s no possible way that you could. It’s just a recipe for injury. You’re not going to get the best performance out of everyone.

“Laura has done a great job with one, making sure everyone is ready to go in, start and play if they need to. At the end of the day, you’re going to need all your forwards, defenders and midfielders.”

Latsko did say she has to pinch herself a bit when walking into a locker room with two-time World Cup champion Rapinoe and other big-name stars of the league and international women’s soccer.

“They are so incredible and so down-to-earth, really amazing people who take the time to talk to you as a human,” she said. “You hear these big names and assume they are big personalities, but these guys are just incredible human beings. They treat you with so much respect. When you’re talking with them, they’re fully present and you feel like you’re so important. That’s how humans should feel.”

Leading by example and experience

Latsko arrived to Seattle with four years of professional soccer under her belt. She was drafted out of the University of Virginia to the Dash in 2018 NWSL Draft. After four years in Texas — and two seasons on loan in Australia’s W-League — she arrived to Seattle with a veteran presence and eager to learn and teach.

“I’m personally someone that believes you can lead from anywhere and everywhere,” Latsko said. “You don’t have to be a veteran to speak up and be a leader. You don’t need to be someone outspoken to be a leader; you can lead through your actions. At different points throughout the season, there are different ways I can show that I’m a leader and a veteran in how I play, or how I train… There are little things you can do to lead.”

Latsko has also played a big role with her years of experience in the league as a player representative for the NWSL Players Association. She was recently named one of OL Reign’s representatives, along with friend and teammate Sinclaire Miramontez. Ally Watt is the team’s alternative representative.

The 26-year-old from Pittsburgh helped shepherd in the new, and first-ever, NWSL CBA, which was ratified earlier this year and then signed by new NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman this summer.

Latsko said she’s proud of the CBA and is excited for new things to come out of it, like free agency in the upcoming offseason.

“It was a grind. January was really stressful,” Latsko said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen. The league stepped up, so good on them and wanting to meet us halfway. We got a CBA out of it. It’s the first CBA, so we’re going to work through some more difficulties, but it has set the groundwork for a lot of growth.

“I’m excited to see what we’re all going to get out of it.”

Photo: OL Reign.

An Adoption Agency and a Walk in the Park

In her first year with OL Reign, Latsko said she’s still taking time to get to know the area. The players live and train in Tacoma, which is about 50 minutes south of Seattle, and play their games at Lumen Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, and where the Sounders of MLS play their matches.

Latsko said playing in Lumen Field is like a childhood dream come true.

“The fans make it an incredible environment. Even when you’re walking into the locker room, you’re walking past all the Seahawks jerseys and you realize that it’s very professional,” she said.

In her spare time, Latsko enjoys taking hikes through the various trails around Tacoma and walking with her dogs on the water. Although, the Peters Township alum doesn’t have too much spare time, as she’s taken up a part-time job with an adoption agency, Agape Adoptions.

And yes, it’s child adoptions – not dogs, a question she gets asked a lot.

“I personally like to be really involved with whatever community I was in,” Latsko explained. “In Houston, there were a lot of community events we got to work in, and I was involved with the schools down there. I really love working with kids, and I tried to find that up here, and I got connected to Agape Adoptions. It’s an organization where there are five other women working there in the office, and they’re all lovely humans and care so much about kids.

“It’s been wonderful. It’s been nice to feel like you’re making a difference. You’re able to help connect children around the world to families looking for a child.”

And, when she’s not spending her time working at the agency, going for a hike or training for the next big match, Latsko finds time to joke with her teammates in the locker room – and answer some very “serious” questions.

You might have heard about this on some of the OL Reign players’ social media accounts.

“We do this thing where we do questions of the day… One of them was prompted by Nikki Stanton and it was whether or not mermaids are real, and people got really into it,” Latsko said with a laugh. “The conversation got a little heated. Nikki strongly believed that mermaids were real. Phoebe McClernon even had a mermaid tail… Olo [Olivia Van der Jagt] had a mermaid tail, too. The group was pretty split on if mermaids were real or not.”

“I believe that mermaids are, but [goalkeeper] Phallon Tullis-Joyce doesn’t believe they are. She’s also a marine biologist, so she has a bit of an advantage.”

The sport of soccer is Rachael Kriger's area of expertise. Kriger covers Steel City FC for Pittsburgh Soccer Now and provides various columns, with occasional work with Pitt Women's Soccer. Elsewhere, Kriger is the co-managing editor of Last Word on Soccer and the social media coordinator and lead Liga MX Femenil writer for Equalizer Soccer. She is a member of the official NWSL Media Association and the North American Soccer Reporters, serving as the NASR's Vice President after two years in the role of Communications Director.

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