The first Reign versus Thorns match of the new season didn't look at all like last year's editions. Seattle's new roster is dedicated to getting and holding possession, and they did that even on the road against a good Thorns team. NWSL doesn't maintain possession stats, but I can confidently say the Reign had the possession edge through most of the match.
Portland in turn were comfortable staying organized and trying to create chances by releasing Jessica McDonald and Christine Sinclair on counterattacks. In particular they attacked the Reign's left flank, where Kiersten Dallstream was starting in place of the injured Stephanie Cox. That approach paid off with a few quality chances down the flank, though nothing that turned into a dangerous shot.
The first half didn't see many dangerous chances. The official stats have 13 combined shots in the half, but only 4 on goal, and only two caused a stir. In the 4th minute a Kat Tarr header had to be tapped over the bar by Solo for a corner. And in the 37th a loose ball rolled to Danielle Foxhoven in the Thorns box. She scuffed the shot a bit and Angerer was able to dive to her right to reel it in.
It was in the second half that things got stretched. Both the Thorns and Reign had players going on short rest and gaps started to open up in the midfield. Just three minutes into the half, the Thorns took a corner that Sinclair headed like a bullet toward the near post. It would have been an emphatic goal had Elli Reed not been standing there to clear it off the line. Then a dangerous Thorns free kick followed by another dangerous header from Jess McDonald a coupe of minutes later suggested that even though Seattle was holding possession, the Thorns were holding momentum.
But in the 70th minute, Harvey sent on Kate Deines for Foxhoven and moved Kim Little up to the wing. That's when the game started to turn for Seattle. In the 77th, Fishlock got behind the Thorns defense and squared a ball for Little, whose shot was deflected off a scrambling defender. Then in the 80th Keelin Winters' pass put Bev Goebel clear on goal without a defender within 20 yards of her. Unfortunately she scuffed her chip as Angerer closed and she ended up sending a meek ball straight to the Thorns' keepers midriff. In the 84th Little sent in a cross from the wing that Fishlock slid to meet at the far post, but she poked it just over the bar. Then in the 88th Goebel sent in a low cross to Leroux crashing into the 6-yard box, but a desperate defensive slide sent it wide. They hadn't scored, but the Reign were clearly growing dangerous.
And that danger finally paid off in the 90th minute. Goebel dispossessed Mana Shim in the center of midfield and delivered a through-ball to Little, who was in the clear. The Scot easily dribbled around Angerer and cut the shot in for the go-ahead goal that kept Seattle perfect and put to rest any doubts that this Reign team can play against anyone in the league, at home or on the road.
The win gives Seattle 18 points, which — incredibly — gives them the same number of points as they had all of last season, through six games. It also puts them a full 10 points clear of second place Portland, who suffered their first loss of the season. And they've done it without one of their best players in Megan Rapinoe. And they did it with a pretty exhausted roster. Fishlock just flew in from Europe after playing for Wales on Thursday. Leroux also played a match on Thursday. And, typical of Harvey this season, the team only used one substitution.
Next the team have a midweek game on Wednesday versus Kansas City, who don't look quite as good as last season, when they were one of the top two teams in the league along with the Thorns. But they do bring Amy Rodriguez with them, and that'll be a tough matchup for the defense, especially if Stephanie Cox remains out. Still, Seattle should be favored at home and we're inching closer to the day that Rapinoe returns and the team actually improves.