A full weekend of Seattle soccer finishes off tonight when the Reign host FC Kansas City in another attempt to pick up their first win of the season. Despite the loss, their last match against the Portland Thorns was promising. With Hope Solo in net for the first time, the team was much more defensively stout even though they were playing three midfielders and an out of position fullback as the defensive line. They looked like the better team for most of that match, but it was eventually decided on the works penalty call I've ever seen — one denounced by PRO as being incorrect.
Tonight Solo is once again in net and coach Laura Harvey — perhaps loathe to mess with a defense that looked good for the first game in a long time — has again opted for a defensive line without any natural center backs. Kate Deines and Elli Reed have recovered enough from their injuries to make the bench, but not the starting lineup. Jenny Ruiz, who played as a decent center back in a pinch but was suspended for the last match, is also starting on the bench. As is center back Emily Zurrer, who's fit but apparently in the doghouse. That means we'll probably see Kaylyn Kyle in defense again. For a career midfielder she's done a decent job there and was able to match up alright with the likes of Alex Morgan.
FC Kansas City are a team built on their deep and talented midfield, which includes the likes of Kristie Mewis and Desiree Scott. Midfield is also the Reign's strength with Jess Fishlock and Keelin Winters on the field, so this match should see a lot of numbers and some interesting battles in the middle. Though they're in the bottom half of the standings, KC are a tough side and were widely expected to be a championship contender as the season started. After this, the Reign schedule lightens up considerably, but they're really running out of time to start picking up points in bunches, so the winning needs to start soon if they want to hold onto their slim playoff hopes.
Off the field, it'll be interesting to see if the team can hold on to some of the improvements in atmosphere and attendance we saw in the Thorns match. Challenged by a big Portland traveling contingent and drawn by the lure of Alex Morgan, the team drew by far its best attendance of the season and the Royal Guard supporters group was in fine form.