Seattle Reign FC returned to the field for a mid-week fixture against a very familiar face in brand new surroundings. Laura Harvey - the head coach, general manager, and architect that built Seattle Reign FC from day one - is now in charge of Utah Royals FC (formerly known as FC Kansas City) and the two sides met for the first time this season at Rio Tinto Stadium, in Sandy, Utah.
The match also marked the highly anticipated debut of United States international Christen Press for Utah, who played the first half of the 2018 NWSL season abroad for Sweden’s Göteborg FC after refusing to report to Houston Dash after a major, three-team trade that happened at the NWSL College Draft back in January. Another three-team trade a couple weeks ago between Houston Dash, Chicago Red Stars, and Utah Royals resulted in Press and defender Sam Johnson moving to Laura Harvey’s side.
However the match was very much a classic Vlatko Andonovski-versus-Laura Harvey chess match. Utah started the match and controlled the first half like a Laura Harvey-coached side would, having the majority of possession and dictating the tempo. They would also get in some shots from distance, some even forcing Reign FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos make a save. One particular effort from Diana Matheson probably should have found the back of the net, but the soccer gods blessed Seattle with some lucky physics and it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out.
This would carry over into the second half and really much of the match. It used to be Reign FC fans would be frustrated that their team would have the majority of possession and attempts on goal, only to be snuffed out by an Andonovski-coached side that exercised bend-but-don’t-break defense and a goalkeeper that made the stops when she needed to. On Wednesday evening the situation was flipped, and Reign FC fans can appreciate the sound defensive effort by Seattle and the Michelle Betos Appreciation Society (not a real thing… yet) having a night to sing praises for the goalkeeper.
The limited offensive ventures Seattle had were mostly conducted by Megan Rapinoe, but that final connection or two needed to really test Utah’s goalkeeper Abby Smith just wasn’t there tonight. Seattle had a good chance in the final minutes of the game when substitutes Beverly Yanez and Jasmyne Spencer looked to link up. Yanez crossed the ball into Utah’s box and Spencer JUST missed getting her head on it, as it had late-minute thievery of the full three points written all over it.
Alas, on the night that Utah Royals FC fans were hoping for a Hollywood summer blockbuster premiere for Press, they left frustrated that, for all the chances they had on Seattle’s goal (and there were a lot), none of them found the back of the net. Once again Andonovski’s tenets of composed and organized defense showed up at all the right times. After an abysmal performance this past Saturday at home against North Carolina Courage, this probably was the response he was looking for in his side.
Next up for Seattle is a match back in the comforts of home, hosting Portland Thorns FC. You may have heard of them. You may have heard about how big the Seattle vs. Portland rivalry is. That match takes place this Saturday with a scheduled kickoff of 7 PM and broadcast on go90.