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Seattle Reign v. Houston Dash: 3 Questions with Dynamo Theory

Seattle is out of the playoffs, but can still finish the season on a high note.

Reign vs. Dash: Photos Mike Russell

Tonight, the players for Seattle Reign FC lace up their boots one last time for the year. There are no playoffs to prepare for, as Western New York destroyed the Boston Breakers last night—eliminating Seattle from playoff contention.

But the Reign want to end the season on a high—for all the fans and players, and the retiring Keelin Winters in particular. They’ll need to beat the Houston Dash on national television to do this, a challenge they lived up to in exciting fashion last year.

We caught up with Dynamo Theory to exchange three questions before tonight’s match.

(Note: Questions were exchanged before Saturday's NWSL games, when the Reign still had a chance at the playoffs.)

SaH: Houston had a rough start to the season, going 2-7-1 and having a hard time finding the back of the net. But the team is starting to find some offensive spark, primarily through Kealia Ohai's 10 goals. What's been the reason for this?

DT: This team has struggled to score goals each and every season, but Ohai's scoring streak has made a huge impact on this later part of the season. The forward didn't score a goal until July 16 and since then has scored 10 goals. Since then the team has gone 4-2-3 and attempted a push to make the playoffs. It hasn't just been about Ohai scoring goals. She has also stepped up as leader of this team which is something they were missing on the field.

This season's roster has been one of the strongest that the Dash has put together but the starting lineup has lacked consistency which has hampered their ability to create a rhythm week in and week out. There has been a lot of rotation and change in the lineup each week in part due to International absences. We have started to see a more consistent lineup each week, a lineup that is able to get the ball to the forwards and allow the team to score.

SaH: The Dash defensive line has rotated a lot this season due to the Olympics and other factors. As a result, it has looked strong at times and chaotic at others. Which defensive side do you think will show up on Sunday?

DT: The team as a whole has struggled to find cohesion this season with a constantly changing starting lineup. With all of the International players back from the Olympics we have finally started to see a consistent backline and midfield.

Where the backline usually comes up short is in the last 15 minutes of games where they let off the gas and mental errors allow the other team to score goals. The team as a whole is doing a better (but not perfect) job on finishing out games.

The Reign have been a challenging team for them to face as they have never been able to get a win over them. Seattle knows how to exploit Houston's weaknesses particularly on defense. I think we will see the defense struggle against Seattle once again.

SaH: After another season of not making the playoffs, what do you think about Randy Waldrum's future with the organization? Will he get another year?

DT: I don't think the team is looking to fire Waldrum. He is a really well liked guy, by the FO, fans, and players, which is something that is buying him time right now. I think fans have reached the point where they really like Waldrum as a person but they are ready for the team to start winning. So far he hasn't been able to find success like he did as a college coach. At the start of the team Waldrum brought in a lot of players that he coached in college or with the youth national team, but it hasn't translated at the NWSL level.They have attempted to improve the team by bring in a lot of new players each season which is creating a lot of roster turn over. This is one of their strongest rosters yet and the team was still at the bottom of the league for most of the season.

The problem is who do you bring in to coach the team if you fire Waldrum? Do you bring in another college coach? There aren't many pro-level WoSo coaches out there and even fewer that have proven successful.

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DT: It's the last game of the season and the Reign haven't locked up a playoff spot nor do they completely control their destiny.They need to get a win over the Dash and for the Flash to lose to the Breakers to get in. If they miss out on the playoffs it would be the first time since 2013 for the team to miss the playoffs. What does making or not making the playoff say about the team this season?

SaH: It's so hard to truly define the Reign this season. For a team that returned virtually all of its starters, most predicted Seattle would again sit at the top of the league. What does it say about the team if it doesn't make the playoffs? Most fans wont read too much into it and agree it's just been an uncharacteristic season that was affected by a lot of injuries.

But I think one thing was made clear: teams have figured out the best way to beat Seattle, and that's by cutting off balls into the midfield and compressing the field of play. This also says a lot about the league. The level of talent across the NWSL grows and grows. To have a few new teams sit at the top of the league can only be a good thing, in my mind.

DT: Houston is 0-6-0 against the Reign with a +13 goal differential for the Reign. How has the Reign been able to consistently shut the Dash down each time they play each other?

SaH: The Dash seem to be a team that loves to have space to take players on and run with the ball. Kealia Ohai is a perfect example of that. Seattle's Laura Harvey has coached her team to put quick pressure on the ball on defense. She preaches a "defend from the front" mentality. It can leave Seattle susceptible to speedy counter attacks, but seems to be the perfect defensive approach against Houston.

DT: The Reign has scored eight goals in the last four games. What has changed on offense for the Reign?

SaH: There seems to be a lot more urgency from the team on offense, which is both exciting and frustrating, as we didn't see it earlier in the season. One big reason for the spark has been the return of a healthy Manon Melis, who really seems to be finding her stride. Melis is fast. So fast. And Seattle has been focused on getting her the ball in dangerous positions early in the match, in order to set the tone of the game.

Melis is a direct-to-goal kind of player, and the Reign might be the first team she's played on that deploys a possession-based attack. It has taken her a bit of time to time her runs correctly and connect with teammates. but she's found a groove and has been a big reason for Seattle's late-season surge.

Tune into Fox Sports 1 at 6:30 p.m. PT to catch Reign FC’s final match of 2016.

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