The Seattle Reign FC welcomed back World Cup champions Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe in style, beating the Western New York Flash 4-2 in front of a sold-out crowd.
"I'm speechless," Rapinoe said during the pre-match welcome home ceremony when asked what the World Cup victory meant to her. She eventually found the words. "It's an absolute dream come true. I can't believe I'm a World Champion."
Hope Solo took the time to thank the crowd of 5,778 and said that both she and Pinoe are hungry for another championship: the NWSL championship. While both Solo and Rapinoe were rested for the match, their teammates put on quite the show in the second half—coming from behind to score four goals.
The victory came just one week after the Reign had arguably their worst performance of the season, tying the Flash 1-1 despite getting just one shot and allowing 20.
Coach Laura Harvey made just two lineup adjustments for this match, starting Elli Reed—one of the best right backs in the league—at right midfield and moving Danielle Foxhoven to the bench. Amber Brooks started in place of Mariah Bullock, who had a difficult time making an impact last match, as Western New York did much of its attacking down the flanks.
While the Reign certainly came out stronger in the first half than last week, the team still struggled to connect passes and play the clever, quick passing soccer that has been the cornerstone of their offense the last two seasons. Former Reign forward Amanda Frisbie was causing all sorts of trouble on the left, and in the 33rd minute scored on a diving header off a cross to put the Flash up 1-0.
Harvey must have given quite the halftime speech, as the second half was dominated by the Reign. In the 49th minute, Beverly Yanez tied the game up at 1-1. Lauren Barnes collected the ball about 35 yards out and sent a gorgeous ball to Yanez, who placed it near post and into the roof of the net.
Just three minutes later, Rachel Corsie scored her first goal with the Reign. There was a scramble in the box off a corner kick, and Jess Fishlock's shot was deflected out to Corsie, who settled it and fired it into the net. The Reign scored yet another goal three minutes later. This time, Amber Brooks collected her first Reign goal. Kendall Fletcher flicked a corner kick to the back post, and Brooks was there to head it in—putting the Reign up 3-1 in the 55th minute.
Those goals, scored in a span of 6 minutes and nine seconds, marked an NWSL record for the fastest three goals scored by a team. The Reign stole the record from the Portland Thorns, who last year scored three goals in 6:33.
While Becky Edwards gave the Flash a fighting chance in the 67th minute, Jess Fishlock had an answer six minutes later. Yanez sent a beautiful ball into the box. Fishlock timed her run perfectly, took one touch to the left, and slid the ball near post.
The Reign finished the match at 4-2. With the win tonight, the Reign extended their unbeaten streak to eight matches and moved to the top of the table with 21 points. They face the Washington Spirit on the road next Saturday.
- The Reign's newest addition, Katrine Veje, came on in the 80th minute. While she only had 10 minutes on the field, she certainly made an impact. Veje has extremely quick feet and sent a great through ball to Fishlock, who would have had a breakaway on goal if she hadn't been pulled down.
- Jess Fishlock and Kim Little are an amazing pair. The two see each other's runs before anyone else does. Their partnership nearly gave Seattle one or two more goals.
- Elli Reed and Bev Yanez both put in a ton of work this match. While Reed did not notch a goal or assist, her speed was a constant threat on the right and she provided some much-needed support on defense. Kendall Fletcher played significantly better with Reed in front of her.