Until very recently, Chicago was the only team the Reign had taken any points off this season — in a 1-1 draw to kick off their NWSL existence. So even if this was the Reign team we watched in May, they would be favored here to finally get their first home win (and their first home points) of the season. But this isn't the Reign team we saw in May. The returns of national team players Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe has invigorated the side to their best form of the year. After scoring only 4 goals in their first 10 matches, they've scored 3 in their last 2 and have looked likely to get more.
As well as the national teamers, it's taken about half a season for the players on the team to find their best roles. We've learned Kaylyn Kyle is a central defender, Kirsten Dallstream is a fullback, Jess Fishlock is a playmaker; and we learned that our best forward of the first half was 'nobody', necessitating that the team make some moves. The first move was to add Kennya Cordner, and she's looked promising in her one start so far this season. This week the team also added forward Jessica McDonald, who had been waived by (this week's opponent) Chicago after being consistently used as a late game sub all season.
So this new version of the Reign is unquestionably better than the version in the first half. Rapinoe's service, passing eye, and dangerous shooting have unlocked defenses that previously could comfortably play one on one defense and not have to worry about getting beat. Solo has solidified a shaky defense that was porous for much of the season. And the general increase in familiarity on the team has improved tactics predicated on a lot of midfield passing and position switching.
In fact, if Seattle wins tonight, they will no longer be on the bottom of the table. That honor would belong to the Washington Spirit, who suddenly look in complete disarray. That's not playoffs, but it's a lot better than where we were recently.