Coming out of the Olympics break, it was simple for the Seattle Reign FC: win out the rest of the way. The uncharacteristic inconsistencies of the team over the course of the season put them in a position where they cannot afford to lose a match if they wanted to get into the NWSL Playoffs. Last weekend, they reminded everyone that they will not go down without a fight, disposing of rival Portland Thorns 3-1.
Today in Bridgeview, Illinois at Toyota Park, the Seattle Reign FC looked to keep it going and despite an early onslaught that saw two goals within the first 10 minutes, Seattle were not able to secure the win. The resilience of the Chicago Red Stars won out over the 90 minutes as they split the points to the tune of a 2-2 draw.
Seattle opened the scoring five minutes in on a wonderful through ball from Beverly Yanez to Manon Melis to solidify her as the club’s leading goalscorer with her sixth of the season.
Bev Yanez with the set up and Manon Melis with the finish! Reign 1 - 0 on Red Stars. pic.twitter.com/gSCDAjjcaT— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 4, 2016
In the 9th minute after Seattle won a free kick, Lauren Barnes showed off her deadly left foot as she buried it past the wall and just like that Reign were up 2 goals on the Red Stars.
WOAH! Lauren Barnes how do you do with that free kick strike! 2-0 Reign. pic.twitter.com/gEI0RNBSqd— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 4, 2016
Red Stars would get one back in the 27th minute as Sofia Huerta connected on a corner and headed the ball into the upper corner. Fast forward to the 42nd minute and what would become a recurring theme of the night, Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher came up huge and stopped efforts from Beverly Yanez that could have easily been a brace by the end of the night.
First there was this incredible double-save.
Incredible double-save by Alyssa Naeher on Bev Yanez's effort here. pic.twitter.com/SRUfU1ofXr— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 4, 2016
And then the 55th minute where again was right there to stop a diving header by Yanez.
Alyssa Naeher is becoming a diabolical hater to the efforts of Bev Yanez. And we think that's pretty rude. pic.twitter.com/6zyF2I2thv— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 5, 2016
The Red Stars broadcast captured the reaction of the Reign bench on Yanez’s diving header and it’s a feeling many of us Reign fans are echoing with a simple, “Same.”
In the 78th minute, an unfortunate clipping by Merritt Mathias in the box on Chicago’s Casey Short awarded them with a penalty that Christen Press took and converted.
Chicago won a penalty after Merritt Mathias committed a foul in the box. pic.twitter.com/F4dFSjrnFD— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) September 5, 2016
A few more ho-hum efforts by Seattle in the closing minutes to try and get a third goal were thwarted and here we are with the 2-2 result.
So the question on everyone’s mind is: Is the playoff chase done?
No, it is not. A loss would have effectively written off the chances. A draw is a serious hit to the campaign, but there is still a chance. After tonight’s result, Seattle can still catch up and leapfrog the Red Stars but it would take: the Reign winning their final three matches (@ Washington Spirit, vs Washington Spirit, @ Houston Dash) and Chicago Red Stars not picking a win in their final three (vs. Kansas City, @ Kansas City, vs. Washington Spirit).
It’s an incredibly tall order to get two wins on the Spirit who sit at the top of the table and still have playoff seeding and securing the NWSL Shield to play for, but it’s not impossible. With the mindset that every game has been a “win or go home” scenario, history has shown Seattle has the advantage over the Spirit. Seattle winning out the rest of the way and Chicago not picking up a win the rest of the way is the easiest scenario in which Seattle can get a playoff spot. There are other scenarios, but in the immediate aftermath of tonight’s match, it’s this simple Reign fans.
Win out the rest of the way and hope Kansas City beats Chicago twice and Washington beats them in the regular season finale, and the Seattle Reign FC are in the playoffs.
Reign FC’s next match is Wednesday, September 7 at Washington Spirit with a 4 PM PT kick-off.