Well, we've reached that time Reign Fans. The time when we watch games with more of an eye toward next season than this season. Last week's loss at Kansas City combined with Western New York's big home win over league leaders Sky Blue didn't mathematically eliminate the Reign from the playoffs, but it may as well have. We're at the point where Seattle would have to win out and New York would have to lose out, and neither are reasonable expectations, especially with the Flash playing four of their final five at home. So it's time to enjoy the atmosphere, watch some of the best female players in the world at their craft, and try to chase down Boston for that 6th spot in the standings.
The loss against Kansas City was also a reminder that despite the six game undefeated streak the team was on, the Reign were never really the best team in the league, just as much as they weren't the worst team in the league back in the first half when they only picked up one point. Luck had a big part to play in both runs, as did the schedule. The Reign have had as disjoint a schedule as any team in the NWSL, with 9 of their first 11 games against current playoff teams versus only four of their final 11. And it's probably no coincidence that their undefeated run ended when they faced a top 3 team for the first time since that streak started.
Tonight will be another gorgeous night at Starfire and the last time they'll be playing at home before the season finale hosting the Portland Thorns. For various reasons that one might be a packed house, so if you want to watch Megan Rapinoe and Hope Solo in person and not have to navigate Starfire rush hour, this is your only remaining chance this sesason.
The opponent is Chicago, who are trying to keep their much more realistic (but still distant) playoff hopes alive, but are also the only team that has not beat the Reign all season. From the Reign perspective, the goal here is to get their first shutout of the season by solidifying a defense that's still a big question mark. We're still waiting for Stephanie Cox' first start after a few games on the bench. And given the state of the season, it might not be a bad time to rotate through someone like Jenny Ruiz or Emily Zurrer or see if Kate Deines is still part of the defensive plans or if she's been permanently moved back to midfield. And new signing Emily van Egmond could be due for a run out in the midfield to see how she holds up in a full professional match.