Rebounding after the season-opener clunker, it'd be understandable for Seattle Reign FC fans to have regained their swagger — especially after Kim Little reminded everyone that she is magic personified with that NWSL Player of the Week shift versus two-time defending champion FC Kansas City.
Orlando Pride are the new kids on the block in the league, and with it comes uncertainty as to who exactly they are. Going into today's match, there are the names we know (Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, Steph Catley, coach Tom Sermanni), but just four weeks into the season, it's still way too early to fill in the blank of : "Orlando Pride plays like _____."
Well for today's match, we knew who were the Orlando Pride. They had Seattle's number, and earned a 2-0 victory.
The most obvious question we can about Seattle's performance was, where was Kim Little? Where last week she casted Expecto Patronum on herself, Orlando followed what Sky Blue did in week 1 and silenced her. It will require a second viewing when the match is available on replay, but it sure felt like the amount of touches Little had were few and far between and sure were not effective to put any threat on Orlando. If this is the sign of the obvious effect of not having Jess Fishlock out there, then where can we get an Episkey spell for Jess so she can come back tomorrow?
Another question to ask in the immediate fallout from today's loss is, what in the world happened to the defense? Yes we are blessed by having the greatest goalkeeper in the world Hope Solo, but even with her lot of solid saves, the fact she was so active meant the usual defensive stalwarts of Lauren Barnes, Kendall Fletcher, Rachel Corsie, and new favorite Carson Pickett looked so out of character. Did someone cast Incarcerous on them? One could forgive Pickett where today she actually looked like a rookie and learned a painful lesson of not remembering to box out Orlando's Sarah Hagen, which resulted in the opening goal in the 11th minute.
We had been singing Pickett's praises like someone cast Cantis on us, but knew at some point the trial by fire of a rookie was going to burn her. It happened here today and it wasn't fun seeing it. Oh and Kendall Fletcher left the game early because of injury, so yeah can we get an Episkey for her too?
It worked last week very well, but today Beverly Yanez in the midfield did not. She tried her best to set up the attack for Manon Melis, Merritt Mathis, and Elli Reed up top, but had to deal with a pesky but very effective (and former Reign player) Kaylyn Kyle. When the task wasn't to disrupt Little's space & timing, Kyle was where Bev was, and Kyle's efforts made it an easy day for Orlando's back four and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
There were a couple corner kicks where Seattle got to connect a head onto them, but it came after Orlando opened the scoring. It wasn't until around the 81st minute where Yanez had a great shot from distance and Harris had an equally great save and proper Save of the Week nominee. The rebound did fall to the feet of a trailing Michelle Cruz that she should have followed up on to get Seattle's first goal, but it was not in the cards. Or someone forgot to drink their Felix Felicis.
It feels like repeating the overall line from the season opener against Sky Blue — just a bad day in the office for Seattle, a really bad regression from last week where Laura Harvey praised everyone's effort. The eye test of us simple outsiders watching the match on YouTube would naturally suggest that maybe the kickoff temperature of 88 degrees plus Florida humidity did a number on the team. Maybe it did, but that isn't why Seattle lost. Full credit should go to Tom Sermanni and his coaching staff because their game plan worked. Whatever book of spells Seattle brought to Orlando, it was the wrong one because Tom had the counter spells.
Dropping two matches in the first four isn't fun, but it's not unheard of for Seattle. It did happen last year and the rest of the way worked out pretty well for the team. Yes, Seattle's next match is against rivals Portland Thorns so there's very little hype needed for the match. But remember, Portland will be without their talisman Tobin Heath, who picked up a red card yesterday in Kansas City.
When Seattle dropped the season opener to Sky Blue, they responded the following week with 3 goals. Yes, the Portland Thorns are no Boston Breakers, but if Laura Harvey's squad needed more motivation in avenging a really bad loss like today, yeah the I-5 rivals well get it out of them. Maybe a change in the formation is needed. Maybe a change in the starting eleven is needed. This loss stinks, yes, but let's remember the team's mantra from last year: In Harvey We Trust.
Seattle Reign FC returns to Memorial Stadium and hosts rival Portland Thorns, on Saturday, May 14th. The match will be on YouTube, but really if you're within driving distance to Seattle, you ought to be going to match.
[Editor's Note: In case you missed it, the Reign got to Orlando a day early so they could explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, making Jacob's recap all the more clever and therapeutic]