After last week’s field-shenanigans, Seattle Reign fans (and I’m sure Reign players) were looking for a bit of revenge against the team that had hosted Seattle so inhospitably. And early in tonight’s reverse matchup it looked like we’d get exactly that response, as just two minutes into the match a miscommunication in the Flash defense allowed Manon Melis to pick up a ball in the New York box, get behind, and score the first goal of the match. Then Nahomi Kawasumi hit the crossbar off of a Melis throughball.
But things quickly went off script as the Flash showed the form that has them among the top teams in the standings. A combination of heavy ball pressure, quick attacks on the Reign’s right flank, and Jess McDonald’s long-throwing ability earned the Flash a relentless stream of dangerous set piece opportunities.
The Reign defense was weakened tonight by the expected loss of Haley Kopmeyer and the unexpected loss of Rachel Corsie. And the combination of that weakness and New York’s pressure finally resulted in an equalizer off of a corner kick just before halftime.
"I thought the first half we were the better team, but we conceded at a really sloppy time, where we were dominant and didn’t take our chances," Reign coach Laura Harvey said after the match. "And even with the amount of possession we had we didn’t create enough chances."
The second half was slightly more positive for Seattle, but the Flash still had the advantage in possessions and dangerous chances. The Reign showed an uncharacteristic inability to complete passes under pressure and increasingly regressed to directness, with any midfield player who had a second on the ball immediately looking to launch long balls over the top to Nahomi Kawasumi or Manon Melis.
New York’s defense had the pace to catch up with those balls and they resulted in few dangerous chances. Late substitutions pushed Kim Little further into the attack, but that didn’t unlock the Flash defense either and even though the Reign had the better of the last 10 minutes of the game they couldn’t push the go-ahead goal through and settle for the draw.
"Flash are difficult to play against, and credit to them, because they make the game difficult," Harvey said.
A draw against a team as strong as Western New York isn’t a bad result, especially with the losses in the defense. But Seattle is running out of time to make a push into the playoff spots. The Olympics-shortened regular season only has another seven games in it and the Reign only have three more home matches. It would be hard to imagine them even making the playoffs if they can’t win most or all of those.
"We have to be ruthless," Reign defender Lauren Barnes said about the remaining weeks ahead.
They’ll get their next chance soon, as next weekend the Orlando Pride come to Seattle for the first time, and a home win would vault the Reign over Orlando into fifth place in the standings.