Tonight the Reign return home for the first game of the post-streak era. With their record 16 game unbeaten run ended by a loss in Chicago last week, Seattle gets a chance for instant revenge as they host the Red Stars.
Though the streak was fun to watch and certainly put Seattle in a dominant position in the standings, it has been opined (here and elsewhere) that there's a silver lining to it coming to an end. With the pressure of keeping it going week to week gone, the team's focus can now be 100% on preparing for the postseason. The team is just a couple of points away from clinching a playoff spot and has 8 points and two games in hand on second place Kansas City, so can just about coast in to a first seed and home field through the playoffs with 7 games left.
That means Laura Harvey will be trying to find the balance between keeping her starters sharp and resting them for the playoffs. And it means Megan Rapinoe can be eased back into the squad. After missing most of the season with a foot injury suffered in the first game, she came back for some minutes only to miss more games with a hamstring injury. She's listed as probable for tonight's match, so she's likely to get at least a few minutes and we can hope that means her full time return to the lineup.
Chicago is fighting for their playoff lives, as they're currently just outside on goal differential. They'll be relying heavily on US international Christen Press to create attacking danger, but last week it was Canadian Melissa Tancredi who scored the goal that finally beat Seattle. And with Lori Chalupny and Adriana Leon on the field as well, Chicago is not lacking attacking talent. Getting a shutout will be a challenge.
But that's the perfect kind of problem to try to solve as Seattle gets playoff-ready.