A week removed from a clash with rival Portland Thorns that saw a whole lot of physicality that got a sternly worded letter and a fine from the league office, Seattle Reign FC's match against Chicago Red Stars was a lot more subdued.
The Red Stars came to Memorial Stadium having played last week in Kansas City to a scoreless draw but featured some amazing saves by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher that rewarded her with NWSL Player of the Week honors. And with a team loaded with their own U.S. nationals in Christen Press, Julie Johnston and the aforementioned Naeher, with Seattle's injury woes, it might have been a tall order on paper to get the result.
That was case tonight as Seattle fell to Chicago 2-1.
The first half of the match saw both sides getting their chances with Seattle having a slight edge as they pressured Chicago's defense a bit more through most of the first half. As halftime approached, Chicago turned up the volume on their threats to Seattle's goal, though neither side could find the back of the net.
The second half is where the goals came and the Red Stars started it. In the 56th minute, Haley Kopmeyer (who was in goal in place of Hope Solo who had the night off to attend a memorial service for her grandmother) had a save on a Christen Press shot but the rebound landed at the feet of a trailing Jen Hoy and she got enough on the ball to trickle into Seattle's net. Kopmeyer actually was in a good position after the first save attempt to scramble back but just came up short.
This wouldn't be the only time Jen Hoy had the ball and would punish Seattle as in the 67th minute, she took a great long ball from Vanessa DiBernardo and had Kopmeyer on a 1 v 1 and buried it past her for the second Red Stars goal.
It ultimately was the match winner, as even though Beverly Yanez won a penalty in the 89th minute that Kim Little took and converted, it was far too late for Seattle to work some miraculous magic and steal a point.
Post-match, Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey was straight the point that her side did not execute and Chicago were the better team tonight. "Just never got going, I think. I thought Chicago were the better team," Harvey said post-match. Harvey also lamented that Seattle were sloppy with possession and weren't as she said, "goal dangerous" and while the injuries to Megan Rapinoe, Jess Fishlock, and Manon Melis stink, it's the inconsistency in their performances that needs to be figured out.
"I think week to week is what is the biggest challenge for us. One week we turn up, the next week we don't, the next week we turn up, the next week we don't. And you can't do that in this league, you've gotta turn up for every game."
Haley Kopmeyer echoed Harvey's sentiments post-match also saying, "The vibe right now is that it's just little things that are just missing and not clicking."
While Chicago Red Stars head coach Rory Dames was glad to take the win at Memorial Stadium, he also made it a point that the Seattle side that played today would not be the same the next time the clubs meet. Dames said post-match, "The Seattle team when they find form and get healthy, are gonna close gaps and come back like they always do."
Is there cause for concern if you're a Reign FC fan? Unlikely, as while they know they have been inconsistent so far, there is time to right themselves and be the Seattle Reign FC team that we all know. Two straight seasons of dominance like they have had is not easy, as it does motivate the field to get better and that has been the case no doubt. That said, two straight seasons of dominance like they've had should be a good enough track record to know that Laura Harvey's side can right itself soon and when it's crunch time in the league.
What Dames said earlier about Seattle being a far different team when everyone is healthy and gets back was part of a long praise he had for Harvey and what she has built here. He praised Kopmeyer's shift in goal tonight, as well as the overall value Rapinoe, Fishlock, Little, and Winters bring to Seattle. So while for the past two years Laura Harvey has given her fellow NWSL coaches headaches, there is without a doubt respect for what she has done since the 2013 inaugural year.
So while you might be asking, "Will the real Seattle Reign FC please stand up?" Everyone should feel confident that the answer is yes, they will soon enough.
Reign FC host FA Cup winners Arsenal Ladies this Thursday before heading down I-5 to Portland next Sunday in the next installment of their Cascadia series.