After a half-bye, the Seattle Reign return to the field with a midweek match against the Washington Spirit in a matchup of the two teams that finished at the bottom of the standings last season. For the Reign, that era is long over. The transformed roster showed its worth in week one with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Boston, earning a shutout in their first game after failing to get one all of last season.
The Spirit are still a question mark. A week one 3-1 loss to a Western New York side that was without Abby Wambach had a very "here we go again" vibe. But they followed that up with a 3-1 win over a strong Kansas City team last weekend, in which #1 overall draft pick Crystal Dunn looked very dangerous coming in from the wing. Christine Nairn, who was the Reign's rookie of the year last year, picked up a goal in the game. And if she and Dunn both have good seasons, it may be as transformative a season for Washington as it is for Seattle.
The key matchups in this one are probably Dunn against Seattle right-back Elli Reed (and whoever in the Seattle central defense shifts over to help out the flank) and at the opposite end USWNT fullback Ali Krieger versus Megan Rapinoe. If Krieger can quiet Rapinoe (which is a very tall order) Seattle may rely more on attacks up the right flank, probably through Nahomi Kawasumi, who was a game-changer as soon as she came on as a sub in week one.
There will also be a beefy matchup in midfield between the Reign's Jess Fishlock and Keelin Winters and the Spirit's Diana Matheson — who led the team in goals last season and had a brace this weekend — and Yael Averbuch. The game may come down to Seattle's ability to hold possession in the central midfield and keep Matheson and Averbuch off the ball.
Despite Washington's improvements, Seattle should be a pretty strong favorite here. And a win would put them clear at the top of the standings.