It took 10 weeks, 12 matches, 21 different starters, and 21 goals allowed, but this afternoon we (well, those of us who shelled out $6 to see the stream) finally saw the first Seattle Reign victory. All season it seemed like the breaks were going against Seattle — key injuries, bad refereeing decisions, missed penalties, and on and on. But today they got the breaks. The Boston Breakers twice scored past Hope Solo only to have the goals called back for offside, and Sydney Leroux skied a point blank shot just over the bar. But even though Boston was the better team for most of the match, Seattle caught the breaks and scored two well-taken goals to get the victory.
Seattle replaced two starters from their draw at Western New York on the weekend. Kristin Meier started for Kirsten Dallstream, who was suspended after picking up a second yellow in that match; and Liz Bogus started at forward for Kennya Cordner, who was a late injury scratch. A long term injury to Cordner would be a problem for Seattle, who's struggled to find a consistent scoring threat at forward, but according to the team should she back for Saturday's match.
The game started out wide open and mostly stayed that way, with the ball quickly moving from one end to the other and spending little time in the central midfield. For Boston that meant getting the ball up to the wings and crossing into Leroux. For Seattle that meant getting the ball up to the wings and trying to make something happen. That something didn't happen quite enough, evidenced by Seattle's 6 first half shots to Boston's 12, and Seattle was fortunate to get out of the half with an even score after Boston had one of their offside goals, Leroux missed a close-range shot, and Solo was forced to make a diving save on a wicked Heather O'Reilly shot.
Early in the second half the pressure finally proved too much. In the 51st, a Boston corner was headed back into the mixer by Leroux and Mariah Nogueira headed it past Solo. But that would prove to be a positive turning point for Seattle. With the lead Boston sat back and Seattle started to find more chances. In the next 25 minutes, Jess Fishlock, Bogus, and Teresa Noyola would all get good chances stopped by Breaker keeper Alyssa Naeher and Megan Rapinoe would send one long shot just over the bar and send another 30 yard chip on goal when Naeher was off her line, to be barely saved by the Boston keeper.
The the dam finally broke in the other direction. In the 78th, Rapinoe took a long free kick and blasted it directly on goal. Naeher stopped the shot but could only deflect it into the path of Fishlock, who slotted it in for her second goal of the season and a tie score.
As is often the case, spending most of the half on their heels trying to defend a lead left the Breakers unprepared to get the lead back when they lost it. Seattle had the momentum and a taste for possession and continued to boss the game. Rapinoe hit the corner of the crossbar two minutes after the goal. A few minutes later Bogus crossed to Christine Nairn in the box who one-timed a shot past Naeher for the lead.
With the latest lead they've had all season, there were some tense minutes for the Seattle defense and Boston had a few late chances. But for once luck didn't break against Seattle and they held on for win number one.
The win gives Seattle 4 points on a difficult east coast road swing and ushers them into a promising stretch when they'll play 5 of the next 6 at home, where they have yet to pick up their first point. 4 of those 5 home matches are against teams in the bottom half of the standings, so there's every reason to think that the massive gorilla on the Reign's back should be gone and they can start picking up results at a reasonable pace.
Making the playoffs at this point still seems absurdly unlikely. They're 14 points behind Western New York in the last playoff position. But at this point you take things one standings place at a time. They're now only one point behind the Washington Spirit and in the next weeks have a chance to climb out of the basement for the first time in their existence. That would be a welcome development for a hardened team and fan base who have learned that every point — and now every win — is precious.