In gorgeous conditions at Memorial Stadium, the Seattle Reign surrendered two goals for the first time all season against a committed and dangerous FC Kansas City midfield. But thanks to a late Keelin Winters goal off one of the best crosses you'll ever see — from Reign fullback Kiersten Dallstream — the Reign won their 7th match in 7 tries and sent 2,875 fans home happy.
FC Kansas City offered the sternest test to the Reign so far this season. They have a deep and talented midfield, which along with the tired legs in the Seattle midfield meant that the Reign didn't hold nearly as much midfield possession as they're accustomed to. Without Jess Fishlock and Kim Little able to hold the ball in space, the team sent a lot more long balls forward than we're used to seeing.
Still, even with the ragged midfield play, Seattle took an early 2-0 lead that made it look like Kansas City would leave town as just another notch in the Reign's belt. The first goal came in the 16th minute off a free kick. The initial ball pinged around the box before squirting out to an open Keelin Winters on the edge of the 6 yard box. Her shot was saved by KC keeper Nicole Barnhart, but the rebound went to center-back Kendall Fletcher who buried it and finished with her trademark flip celebration.
Then just a couple of minutes later KC defender Nia Williams, under little pressure, had the ball kick up onto her arm in the box for an easy, if somewhat cruel, penalty call. Kim Little took the ensuing penalty kick and she sledgehammered it past Barnhart, who had guessed right but couldn't do anything about it.
That lead looked good as we approached halftime, but a penalty of their own gave KC life. Ex-Reign player Amy Rodriguez dribbled around forward Beverly Goebel at the corner of the box, Goebel left a leg in, and Rodriguez went down. It was a bit of a harsh call, but not a terrible one. Lauren Holiday scored the ensuing penalty and the Reign had surrendered their third goal all season, with two of them coming on PKs.
Early in the second half KC largely had the run of play and larger gaps started opening up in the Seattle midfield, which Rodriguez, Holiday, and Merritt Mathias were starting to run through. In the 61st, Seattle dropped off the dangerous Erika Tymrak, who had just subbed in 4 minutes previous, to cover the attacking runners. Free of defenders she lined up a 25 yard bomb that beat Hope Solo to the corner and the game was tied.
Shortly afterward a fresh Mariah Nogueira subbed on for Danielle Foxhoven, pushing Fishlock up to the attack and limiting the amount of ground she had to cover. That seemed to settle the midfield and Seattle took control back of the game at that point. Goebel had two great opportunities that she couldn't put a good finish on, one thanks to a mesmerizing Little through-ball. But an even better pass came in the 76th minute, when Dallstream touched the ball past her defender in the corner and sent in a perfect, bullet cross that Winters redirected into the corner for the go-ahead goal.
From there, KC pressed for an equalizer but couldn't create any good chances through a stout Seattle defense. Their only shot on goal in the last 15 minutes was a long free kick from Holiday that went straight to Solo.
The win takes Seattle to 21 points — 10 points ahead of the second place Portland Thorns, who won in Houston today to keep pace. The two goals against doubled Seattle's total on the season and they're now level with Portland and Western New York for goals allowed, but no other team comes close to their goal differential of +12 or, obviously, their point total.
Now the team gets a bit of a break with a full week to rest before a rematch with Kansas City next Wednesday on their pitch. That game could mean the return of Stephanie Cox, who was on the bench tonight and perhaps Megan Rapinoe, who was off crutches today and not noticeably limping. Which would mean an undefeated Reign team could be getting significantly stronger.