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Seattle Reign FC and Chicago Red Stars play to a scoreless draw

Defense and goalkeepers take the spotlight in Memorial Stadium.

Nikita Taparia

On a rainy and muggy Saturday night, Seattle Reign FC hosted the Chicago Red Stars, and while both sides featured some of the most dangerous scorers in the world, defense and unshakable goalkeeping took the spotlight as the encounter ended in a scoreless draw.

Seattle made two changes in their starting eleven from a side that last week demolished Sky Blue FC. Stalwart center back Lauren Barnes returned to the starting lineup, paired with Kristen McNabb, and Alyssa Kleiner made her first start of the 2018 season, replacing Theresa Nielsen at right back. Along with left back Steph Catley, they were tasked with containing the offensive capabilities of Sofia Huerta and Sam Kerr. Huerta’s form early this season won her NWSL Team of the Month accolades for April. Sam Kerr, you know what she can do, and Reign FC fans might still be recovering from the barrage of goals she put on Seattle last season.

However, that was then and this is now, and even with the changes to the back four, Reign FC goalkeeper Lydia Williams still commanded her line well and everyone stepped up when needed on Chicago’s set pieces and second chance attempts. There was a first half double-save by Williams that will surely get some consideration for NWSL Save of the Week.

The Chicago Red Stars did the same in silencing Seattle’s potent attack when needed to. Red Stars head coach Rory Dames was proud of his team being able to stay in front of Seattle’s “potent front six,” as he described them post-match — and any coach would say the same. Given the form Seattle’s been in the past couple of matches, where goals came from multiple people and seemingly never-ending frequency, the Red Stars holding Seattle blank on the score sheet is big — though not big in the sense that Reign FC fans should be concerned they didn’t find the back of the net. Seattle had solid chances that either were silenced by Chicago or just took an unfortunate bounce of the ball that if you replayed the sequences again, chances are Seattle finds the back of the net.

Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski praised the chances Seattle had in the first 30 minutes of the match saying that Megan Rapinoe, Jodie Taylor, and Rumi Utsugi found themselves in good situations to threaten Chicago’s goal but gave kudos to the visitors for being on the same level defensively as his team was in making the stops they needed to.

If Naeher doesn’t get her hands on it, Jodie Taylor connects with that and you have Chicago chasing early.

This effort from Rapinoe in the 68th minute would have been one for the highlight reel if Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher didn’t put in her own highlight reel-worthy save. It was just that sort of night where both goalkeepers came up big when they needed to. Go back 17 minutes before Rapinoe’s effort and watch Seattle’s Lydia Williams catch this pacey Chicago free kick just fine despite the little dump off to try and induce a wonky deflection off Seattle’s wall.

And that was the story of the evening. Both sides had spells over the course of the match where they were turning on the offensive pressure and the counterparts on defense were tested but never broken. While the 3,597 in attendance at Memorial Stadium were hoping for more Reign FC fireworks based on the last two matches, they have to be encouraged by the composure of the team’s defense, especially when they contained one of the world’s most dangerous strikers.

Next up for Seattle Reign FC is two matches on the road. First, a mid-week meeting in Houston, taking on the Houston Dash with that match scheduled for 5 PM PT. After that it’s returning to Piscataway for a weekend match against Sky Blue FC with a scheduled 4 PM PT time kickoff. Both matches will be broadcast on go90.