Everything went right for Seattle Reign FC. After a tough road trip that will be known for so many reasons beyond soccer, the team had their backs against the wall. As we’ve said before it was simple: Reign FC have to win out and hope for either Western New York Flash or Chicago Red Stars to crash out if they want to get into the NWSL Playoffs. Before kick-off at Memorial Stadium happened, Chicago punched their ticket to the playoffs and as much as any Reign FC fan had to make sure business was handled at home first, there was scoreboard watching as to what happened down I-5.
As much as what was going on in Portland was out of their hands, Reign FC knew they had to take care of business at home and on the night that was the final regular season home match for captain Keelin Winters, everyone did their part to make sure the Reign Original had a proper celebration and farewell.
From the start, Seattle put the pressure on top-of-the-table Washington Spirit. Megan Rapinoe got her very first start of the 2016 season and made her presence felt. We sure missed the impact she has on the field and it didn’t take long to remind us of her importance on the field. In the 27th minute, Rapinoe sent a low cross into the box and found a sliding Beverly Yanez to guide the ball into the back of the net for the opening goal.
Megan Rapinoe with a darting run and low cross to The Sunshine Assassin Bev Yanez who slides it in for the goal! pic.twitter.com/jITlDmgsOs— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 12, 2016
When halftime came, Reign were in good position as far as their playoff chances were. Down south, the Portland Thorns had a two-goal lead on the Western New York Flash. Throughout the second half, Reign continued to pressure Washington Spirit as well as handle Spirit’s attack. The visitors still had plenty to play for and try to get the full three points as a victory would ensure them the NWSL Shield. Yet whenever they seemed the most dangerous, the Haley Kopmeyer-commanded backline did not break. Passing and shooting lanes were stuffed when they needed to be and Kopmeyer made the saves when she needed to.
About eleventy saves and LOUD NOISES! happened here. pic.twitter.com/Z9a4Jcwaa2— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 12, 2016
Then came the moment where (pardon me to use the cliche) you could not script. 79th minute. Nahomi Kawasumi crosses the ball into the box and it falls right to the feet of Keelin Winters and...
It will go down as one of the most important goals in the short history of Reign FC. For the captain to score a goal that keeps their playoff hopes alive towards the end of her final match at home, really what can you say? Are there enough superlatives to accurately describe the moment and the emotion 4,711 in attendance witnessed? The 2016 Reign FC has not been an easy one, with some saying it drew reminders to that rough inaugural year. But on this night, they got a storybook moment. The joy the entire team released was something long overdue and with what was on the line for their season and what the escape sports can be to people, this was the perfect moment.
And so the window remains open for the Seattle Reign FC to get into the NWSL Playoffs. Two weeks from now, Boston Breakers host the Flash. Reign FC travel to Houston and take on the Dash. If the Breakers beat the Flash, then all the Reign have to do is beat the Dash and they are in. Two weeks is plenty of time to prepare for that final regular season match.
But for tonight, the team and fans can sit back and enjoy the night captain Keelin Winters had the spotlight and we got to say, “Thank you, Captain.”
Post-match, Winters said: