By Vanya Tucherov & Jeff Lageson
Three games and three points is not where anyone associated with or watching the Reign FC after the first game expected to be. After a road trip that saw the Reign drop back to back matches the confines of The MODA Pitch at Memorial Stadium must feel welcoming.
Looking back, the two match losing streak it is not like Seattle played poorly. Long stretches of the matches were controlled by Seattle. The Reign had it’s full compliment of players. At one point in Chicago in game 2 it was 2-2 at the half going back and forth.. Since that 2-2 half time scoreline game things have gone a bit sideways. Chicago found that the counter attack goal was something to exploit and used it to tie up and take a late win. Kansas City was often content to absorb Seattle pressure and then route 1 in response. In both matches opposing defenses seemed perfectly willing to absorb the Seattle attack. In 2014 and the opener a week earlier Seattle made teams pay.
Two games, no points, and a homecoming to face a Washington Spirit side sitting second in the table just one point in arrears after three weeks. That’s not what Laura Harvey and the Seattle Reign would have wanted from their midwest road swing through Chicago and Kansas City, perhaps as much for the vulnerability it exposed as for dropping points to two of the only three sides to top the Reign last season.
Last year’s Seattle Reign FC opened the season with a skein of undefeated matches not likely to be paralleled in the near future. Certainly not by the 2015 edition of the Reign, who fell 3-2 to the Chicago Red Stars – the same side which ended last season’s run – in Lisle, Illinois to open the trip.
Through 90 minutes, the game seemed headed for a 2-2 draw, with headed goals by Beverly Yanez and Kendall Fletcher from service on corners taken by Megan Rapinoe and Kim Little offset by counterstrike behind the Reign back four by Christen Press and Jen Hoy.
The counterattack led by Press would strike a third time in stoppage time, with the speedy Chicago forward and US National unraveling the deadlock with her second of the evening in the 92nd minute snatching a point from the Reign with seconds remaining.
Whether the quick strike will prove the Achilles’ heel for the Reign time will tell, but it’s likely Hope Solo will wish she had a second chance at both Press’ initial drive from outside the 18 yard box, which seemed to catch the Seattle netminder flat footed; as well as the second – a Press cross from the left side of the area to Jen Hoy which seemed to have caught Solo wrong-footed.
The following Saturday, it was Kansas City in their new home at the Swope Soccer Complex, and it’s clear the Blues watched the Chicago game, with Solo needing to bail our her back line repeatedly before Amy Rodriguez chipped one over the Seattle netminder on a run which looked eerily similar to the two she scored in last season’s NWSL Championship game against the Reign at Starfire Stadium.
Perhaps just as concerning, the Seattle attack against a bunkering Kansas City side seemed disorganized and at times confused – and when they did break through, final touches were just short.
The Spirit come in with a pair of wins by 3:1 margins, at home against Kansas City and on the road at Sky Blue after dropping their season opener at Houston. Washington defender Crystal Dunn had a brace in the Sky Blue match which earned her the NWSL Player of the Week award, though her playing status is in question due to a foot injury.
US and Canadian national team members should begin being recalled to their respective sides for training. As a result, Haley Kopmeyer is likely to get the start in net for the Reign, as Solo and forward Megan Rapinoe will be reporting for training. The Spirit will be without US international Ashlyn Harris – slated as Solo’s backup, and midfielder Diana Matheson, who is part of the Canadian roster.
So, the questions heading into game 4 and moving forward basically boil down to finishing up front and dealing with teams that suddenly have no respect for Seattle’s D Line. Can Seattle finish enough to force teams to alter course? And, will teams run at Seattle’s D until it is stopping them?
Photos by Vanya Tucherov