Little Brace, Shutout Continue Perfect Run for Reign

Mike Russell

Seattle continued to fire on all cylinders as they finished their season opening homestand with a 2-0 win over the Dash.

In a moment of candor during the Seattle Reign's rebuild process over the offseason, head coach Laura Harvey said something like: we don't want to just beat teams, we want to crush them. So far everything is going according to plan.

Playing the expansion Dash for the first time, Seattle deployed the same lineup that beat Washington 3-1 mid-week. Notably, that means they did not play Megan Rapinoe, who seems to have suffered a setback in her injury as she spent the whole match on crutches despite technically being on the bench. That meant a front three of Sydney LeRoux, Nahomi Kawasumi, and Bev Goebel in front of Kim Little, which is plenty talented enough to get by without Rapinoe for a while, as they showed.

The team used the gameplan that has had success all season: force turnovers in midfield with the ferocious trio of Little, Jess Fishlock, and Keelin Winters, and then transition into attack quickly to overwhelm the defense. That strategy created dangerous situations all throughout the early game, and it's not surprise that both of Seattle's goals started life on the end of Fishlock's boot. In the 19th minute Jess stole the ball off of Nikki Washington at the sideline in the Seattle end and was held back by the Dash player trying to counter. Fishlock took the free kick quickly to LeRoux who had gone unmarked up the sideline. The forward cut into the box and put on a move on Becky Edwards, who put her leg in late and fouled her. Little finished the penalty for her third goal of the season.

The second goal came in minute 38 and it was more prototypically Reign-ish. Fishlock was once again the instigator when she combined with Winters to make a tackle in the Seattle end. Then she released a long pass quickly to Goebel on the sideline, who cut in and lofted a perfect ball over the top of the defense to Little, who was streaking into the box. Little collected it and a double-cutback took the keeper and a defender out of the play so she could poke it into the open net.

Credit to the Dash that in the second half they matched Seattle for good chances. They employed high pressure on the defense all match, but in the first half it didn't come to much. In the second they forced a number of bad plays from the defense, including a couple of misplaced passes in tremendously dangerous areas. That forced Hope Solo into action after she could have mostly napped through a first half in which she didn't have to make any saves. In the 53rd off a Dash corner they worked a cleared ball back into the box and a header was destined for the bottom left corner before Solo made a tough diving catch. Then in the 58th Lauren Barnes was under pressure from two Dash attackers and her panicked clearance went right off of the chest of Kika Toulouse who brought it down and launched a shot that Solo turned over the bar for a corner.

Fortunately, that largely ended the threat. The next best chance at a goal came near the end when LeRoux got the ball on a counter and dribbled around the keeper but left herself a tight angle and ended up hitting the post instead of the open net. That leaves her goal-less on the season, but it's not likely to be long before she gets on the scoreboard.

The win gives Seattle 9 points and puts them on top of the table. Comparisons to last year still aren't quite tedious yet, so I'll point out that they earned 18 points all season last year, and they're halfway to that total in three matches.

Now the team heads on the road to face Sky Blue on Wednesday and then Washington next weekend, before coming back to Cascadia for what should be an epic match in Portland on the 10th.

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