A rivalry match between Seattle Reign FC and Portland Thorns FC is going to be physical. Even a preseason match this spring between the two sides was heated. However, what happened at Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening, when at least six Reign players went down at certain points in the game due to injuries, was terrifying.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw, but what most fans will take away from the game was the injuries and poor refereeing.
"It was ridiculous. I thought the ref lost control of the game," Seattle coach Laura Harvey said after the match. "I'm not saying anybody went out to hurt anybody. But the reality is that when a referee doesn't get a hold on the game -- which he didn't -- someone was going to get hurt."
The first half didn't begin well for Seattle, as Manon Melis caught the turf awkwardly in the opening minutes and saw her knee buckle, sending her crumbling to the ground. She immediately waved for a sub, and was replaced by Carson Pickett in the 5th minute of the match. Pickett's starting left back position was filled by Lauren Barnes, so when she subbed into the game, Pickett moved up to the front line alongside Merritt Mathias and Kiersten Dallstream, who earned her first start of the season.
While the Reign dominated possession in the first half, they were unable to create many dangerous chances. The Thorns dropped their forwards deep defensively to try to close up the passing lanes into Kim Little and Keelin Winters, and it worked well for them for the first 45 minutes. While Seattle moved the ball around pretty effectively, they weren't able to find either midfielder much in the first half.
Both teams came out a lot more aggressive in the second half, although it was Portland who found the back of the net first. Meg Morris sent in a slow, looping cross that didn't appear dangerous at all. Barnes attempted to shield Nadia Nadim off the ball so that Hope Solo could grab it. However, due to a miscommunication, Solo didn't get to it in time, and Nadim muscled her way around Barnes and headed the ball into an open goal.
The Reign responded immediately, as Bev Yanez got her head on a corner kick in the 49th minute. After equalizing, play opened up on both sides of the field. Seattle continued to control play and had a few good attempts, but couldn't quite find the back of the net.
Portland tallied six shots in the second half, and had a few good looks on goal. Midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir settled a cross in the box, but her shot went over the bar in the 52nd minute. Allie Long hit a shot off the crossbar in the 57th minute and had a header go just wide in the 69th minute.
It was right around the 60th minute when the game really started to get out of hand. Bev Yanez took an elbow to the face, Keelin Winters twisted her knee during a challenge, Elli Reed was brought down in a dangerous challenge, and Rachel Corsie got taken down Kam Chancellor style by Hayley Raso. Despite the physical play, the ref waited until the 87th minute to issue a yellow card, and decided to call Kim Little for a foul on the below play.
While the reffing quality probably didn't impact the scoreline, it was completely unacceptable and put a number of Reign players at risk. It actually feels like a victory walking away with a draw and not having more players subbed off due to injury.
It's also worth noting that both Pickett and Dallstream put in great shifts up top. Dallstream was all over the field and worked hard to put pressure on the Thorns backline, and Pickett was a constant threat on the left, using her pace to get behind the Thorns defense. Neither got a goal, but both looked dangerous throughout the match.
The result puts Seattle (2-2-1) in fifth place, while the Thorns sit in third with nine points and a 2-0-3 record. Seattle returns to Memorial Stadium next Sunday, May 22, at 4:00 p.m. PT, where they'll face the Chicago Red Stars, a team currently sitting in second place in the NWSL.