After the loss on Sunday to the North Carolina Courage, the Seattle Reign FC quickly had to dust themselves off and hit the road for a crucial match against the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park. Seattle’s mission for a spot in the NWSL Playoffs wasn’t quite killed by the loss, but rebounding and getting back in the win column was absolutely necessary.
The Red Stars opened the scoring in the 21st minute when Taylor Comeau sent a cross into the box and the complete opposite of her reliability, Rebekah Stott forgot to mark Jen Hoy and she was able to glide in and head in the cross.
Halftime and Chicago Red Stars are up on the Reign, 1-0 on Jen Hoy's goal. pic.twitter.com/GCo0ybxd6K— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) August 17, 2017
The first half saw the Reign work hard to try to get an equalizer but much like Sunday's match, they were lacking that bit of quality in the final stage of the attack to get a quality shot on target and make goalkeeper Michelle Dalton work. (Translation: Has Megan Rapinoe healed yet?)
Fishlock goes up, sets it up with some magic and Nairn..... pls. pic.twitter.com/k9BeSejNud— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) August 17, 2017
That was the theme for Seattle for most of the evening, though head coach Laura Harvey's subs were magic tonight. The changes she made were as follows:
Katie Johnson replacing Lindsay Elston at halftime.
Merritt Mathias replacing Kiersten Dallstream in the 67th minute.
Larissa Crummer replacing Christine Nairn in the 76th minute.
The fresh legs of Johnson and Mathias were sure needed as both sides were feeling general match fatigue and the quick turnaround from the weekend games. Especially Mathias who we know Laura Harvey covets and is the embodiment of what she expects out of someone playing the number nine. She did not let up on her presses on the right flank and you just had a feeling that the quality they were lacking in the last stage of an attack was coming. It may have come a little later than Reign fans may have wanted, taking their anxiety to the end, but in the 90th minute Seattle finally broke through.
“The Japanese connection” — as commentator George Metellus said on the broadcast — when Rumi Utsugi sent in a textbook through ball to Nahomi Kawasumi who then did an AND1 style stutter that sent Taylor Comeau down on the pitch, and sent in a low, driven ball into Chicago's net to draw the game level.
Oh but the Reign were not done.
With momentum well on their side, Seattle kept the pressure on and in stoppage time, the following sequence occurred that finally got rid of a bugaboo for the Seattle Reign FC.
Up to this point, defender and co-captain Lauren Barnes had a game she’d rather forget. Some uncharacteristic giveaways led to some very dangerous moments that Chicago should have pounced on, Barnes made up for it by taking down Alyssa Mautz to win the ball. Barnes then crossed the ball over to Mathias down on the right flank and with a simple turn, lobbed the ball perfectly over Red Stars defender Casey Short to Katie Johnson for the match winner in the 92nd minute.
And just like that, finally, the Seattle Reign FC won a regular season match in Chicago.
At the end of the night, the score line will read Seattle 2, Chicago 1. We know who scored the goals to give the Reign the full three points, but none of that would be possible without goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer to borrow a phrase from a very popular YouTube video, "PUT THE TEAM ON HER BACK!" Kopmeyer came up with world-class saves that add to the evidence pile of why we like her so much, why we say she is a damn good argument as to why you trust the process.
For about a six-minute window starting in the 66th minute, Kopmeyer came up with some big time saves that could have, probably should have resulted in a couple Red Stars goals that would have put the game well out of reach and virtually retire Seattle's hopes of the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the saves, which yes includes a blessing from the soccer gods of a Sofia Huerta shot bouncing off the far post.
All of that happened over the course of six minutes. Kopmeyer’s saves kept Seattle in the game as much as Harvey's substitutes did their magic. Ever the consummate professional, Kopmeyer credited her teammates more than taking pride in her saves.
The win puts Seattle back in the fourth & final playoff position as they move onto the second stage of their road trip, facing Sky Blue FC on Saturday who rocked the NWSL world this afternoon with the shocking, sudden departure of head coach Christy Holly. Kickoff for Saturday's match at Sky Blue FC is scheduled for 4 PM PST.