Thanks to some kind meteorological practical joke, the first Reign game in their road whites was played in a monsoon in Piscataway, New Jersey while their home stadium in Seattle was blanketed in sunlight. The rain was hard and cold and relentless, and the brutal conditions meant that the pretty, accurate passing that has typified the new look Reign would have to give way. With every pass having to bulldoze through a curtain of rain and across a soaked grass pitch that held the ball like velcro, there wasn't much opportunity for attractive buildup.
Fortunately, that's a game the Reign can also play. On better days the vision of Kim Little and Jess Fishlock and Naho Kawasumi can pick out perfect passes in the process of cutting a defense to ribbons. On worse days the defensive midfield line of Fishlock and Keelin Winters is a velvet anvil, emerging from the deluge to crush the dreams of opposing attackers. With them shielding the defense and the fullbacks playing just as well, very little of consequence happened in the Seattle end.
Instead the Reign had the lion's share of possession and used it to drive the ball forward, but in those conditions no goal was going to be pretty. And in the 24th minute Sky Blue keeper Jill Loyden faced a backpass rolling parallel to goal from the corner while being innocuously closed down on by Kawasumi. And in trying to clear it she just missed it. I'll be generous and say that a ball that was doing as much floating as rolling is going to move funny, and she just misjudged the kick and missed. She made a creditable effort to run back onto it before Naho got there, but even then it slipped out of her hands again and Kawasumi donked it in for the opening goal.
That held until half when, sadly, Sky Blue's feed cut out. By the time it was repaired in the 56th minute, Seattle had scored their second. I can't tell you whether it was a glorious golazo or pure derp because I'll never see it. . probably. They might recover the footage for the highlight video, but int he meantime we only have this tweet:
Seattle continued to control most of the run of play thanks to overwhelming force in the midfield, but in the 86th minute Sky Blue got in a long looping cross that Hope Solo tried to push away with a diving punch, but she missed the ball leaving it, an open net, a Sky Blue attacker, and two defenders behind her. Somewhere in that scramble a penalty was called. It's not clear entirely what it was for but a handball seems likely. If it was. . I'm tempted to go on again about the plague of handballs in the box this season, but whatever. I guess we're stuck with it. The only goal the Reign had previously conceded was on a handball in the box. It's worth noting that there were two occasions previously in the match when it looked like a Seattle player was dragged down in the box, but nothing was called.
Fortunately, on this day Sophie Schmidt decided to kick a fairly weak PK well away from the corner, Solo guessed the right direction, and the Reign keeper easily saved it. That was the last moment of real danger in the match and Seattle cruised to their 4th consecutive win and their 3rd shutout and they got the heck out of there to dry off.
The win puts Seattle five points clear at the top of the table above Portland (who have a game in hand). Through four games they have only given up one goal, which was the penalty, and they haven't scored fewer than 2 goals in any game. Their 12 points is 2/3 of the way to their total of 18 points in 2013 and their 10 goals is just under half of last year's total of 23.
This weekend they end their east coast trip and their run of 4 games in 11 days at Washington, whom Seattle beat 3-1 last week at home. They're in third place in the league, so a win there puts some serious distance between the Reign and the rest of the table.