After two matches in four days last week, Seattle Reign FC returned to a more normal schedule, but once again on the road, taking on the Orlando Pride in a fairly even match that resulted in a 1-1 draw.
The match served as the return of Japanese internationals Nahomi Kawasumi and Rumi Utsugi, and the season debut of Australian international defender Steph Catley. While fellow Matilda goalkeeper Lydia Williams was available for selection as a sub, Michelle Betos remained as the starting goalkeeper. Even though Megan Rapinoe was ruled out with a hamstring strain, thanks to the arrival of the internationals from having completed World Cup Qualifiers via the AFC Asian Cup, Saturday’s starting eleven was one step closer to what is likely to be the ideal, first choice Reign FC eleven.
For the hosts, Orlando Pride had their star international players return from respective national team duty. The prolific Brazilian international Marta made her season debut for Orlando, as did fellow Brazilian international Monica. Australian internationals Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond also claimed their season debuts, giving the match some major star power.
The first half saw Orlando knocking on Seattle’s goal early on, but the Michelle Betos-commanded backline held the line, most notably keeping U.S. international Alex Morgan quiet throughout the evening. Full compliments to defenders Megan Oyster and Kristen McNabb with the latter having a highlight reel moment where she kept pace with Morgan and stifled her run with a fantastic tackle. Reign FC were able to weather Orlando’s early pressure and got their chances on some counter-attacks that kept the hosts honest.
Seattle would strike first on the score sheet when a free kick into the box by the visitors was punched out by Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. The high lob was then attempted to be cleared out of the box, but instead it went straight up and drifted back towards the middle of the penalty box. Reign FC defender Megan Oyster beat out Marta in the air to head it towards goal, and midfielder Allie Long was able to sneak through the huddle, collect the ball and slot it past Harris’ left in the 33rd minute to open up her Reign FC goal account.
The goal provided a momentum swing late into the first half that saw Jess Fishlock almost make it two for the visitors when she was approaching a near 1 v 1 against Harris, but her shot had bit too much on it and the ball went over the goal.
After the halftime break, the Pride came out again with the early pressure, now with urgency to get an equalizer, but once again, the Seattle backline remained composed. Again, credit to Oyster and McNabb for having a solid shift on Saturday night.
The second half is where two major moments happened, not in Seattle’s favor. Around the 52nd minute, Fishlock collected the ball around midfield and was off to the races on one of her signature box to box runs and with forward Jodie Taylor starting to peel off, Fishlock sent a through ball intended for her. At the moment of the pass though, her legs got caught up with Orlando’s Alanna Kennedy and as both players fell, it appeared that Kennedy fell on Fishlock’s left leg. Play was stopped and certainly at the time, the team and fans held their breath as to how bad a potential injury could be.
Eventually, Fishlock would get up and slowly limp her way back towards the bench and was making a plea to coach Vlatko Andonovski to give her a few minutes before she’d return to the field. However that was not the case and Morgan Andrews would replace her in the 57th minute and at the time of writing this post, there has not been an update on Fishlock, so all Reign FC fans can do now is wait.
Minutes later, Megan Oyster would concede a foul a few yards out from the half circle of the box and, well, Marta did this…
Nothing left to say other than that’s why Marta is considered the greatest of all time. The rest of the match saw both sides make a couple runs that built up some threats but lacked that final quality pass to find the back of either net and the match would finish with a 1-1 draw.
Next up for Seattle is a Saturday afternoon clash with rivals Portland Thorns down in Portland, under the bright lights of the Lifetime Game of the Week broadcast. We’ll just have to wait and see if Seattle will have their full compliment of star players.