Seattle Reign FC were back on the road as they took on the Orlando Pride as the showcase NWSL Game of the Week. In a physical match without key players on both sides, Seattle battled injuries, fought hard, and would ultimately settle for a 1-1 draw.
Despite the importance of this match with regards to positioning to secure one of three spots for the NWSL Playoffs as the backdrop, both sides were missing impact players. U.S. internationals Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long for Seattle and Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan for Orlando were unavailable for this one due to being called in early into national team camp by head coach Jill Ellis for Tournament of Nations (a series of friendlies) preparation.
Orlando would open up the scoring in the 21st minute when defender Toni Pressley was left unmarked in the box as a result of some deflections and rebounds and she was able to capitalize on the opportunity and send it past goalkeeper Lydia Williams. Minutes after the Orlando goal, Seattle had to go to their bench.
Uncharacteristic from Seattle to leave a player in the box unmarked like that and rightfully gets punished. Orlando Pride takes the early lead with Toni Pressley's goal in the 21st. #ORLvSEA pic.twitter.com/jANf7SNqMG— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) July 21, 2018
Injuries to midfielders Beverly Yanez and Rumi Utsugi forced head coach Vlatko Andonovski to make substitutions in the 25th and 26th minutes respectively. With the league taking a week off because of the Tournament of Nations, an update on the severity of their injuries might come closer to when the league resumes play, but here’s hoping both midfielders are okay.
Seattle’s chase to get an equalizer in the first half did see some solid chances by them, but just like in their last encounter back in June, Pride goalkeeper (and former Reign player) Haley Kopmeyer came up with solid saves when she needed to. There was a two-minute sequence in which forward Jodie Taylor had some of the best chances to get the equalizer, but Kopmeyer had her beat.
37' Jodie Taylor almost equalizes. #ORLvSEA pic.twitter.com/fG1VrtENAa— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) July 21, 2018
39' Taylor once again gets a shot on Kopmeyer. Seattle hoping to unlock this one soon. #ORLvSEA pic.twitter.com/WkBTHt9t2A— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) July 21, 2018
Though Orlando started the second half with the ball, Seattle turned up the pressure and were knocking on the door to get one on the scoreboard. It was encouraging for Reign FC fans to see them start the second half with urgency, taking advantage of Orlando looking the opposite, as if they weren’t the side with a goal lead. Seattle kept knocking on the door, and eventually it would pay off.
Their equalizer would come in the 70th minute when Nahomi Kawasumi sent a teardrop cross into the box to Taylor, and her soft touch went past Kopmeyer.
.@Jodes_14 finally nabs that goal. All even in Orlando now!#ORLvSEA | #NWSLonLIFETIME pic.twitter.com/bXerxBb8j0— NWSL (@NWSL) July 21, 2018
Seattle would use their final substitution after the second half hydration break, bringing on Adriana Leon for Naho and again kept knocking on the door to get a second goal and leave Orlando with the full three points. Alas that wasn’t the case, as the final match of the regular season trilogy between Seattle and Orlando ended in a 1-1 draw, just like their first encounter back on April 28. All three matches between the sides this season have been draws, and while neither side’s quest to punch a ticket into the NWSL Playoffs are in jeopardy after today’s result, it makes the final handful of games all the more important and chaotic.
The draw keeps Seattle Reign FC in second place on the table with 30 points. Orlando Pride remains one point behind Seattle with 29 as do Portland Thorns FC with their victory against Sky Blue FC on the weekend.
The aforementioned Tournament of Nations gives Seattle a week off to rest, rehab, and plan for the final month of regular season play. It will only get more interesting, important, and action packed going forward. Seattle Reign FC’s next league match is back at Memorial Stadium, hosting Washington Spirit on Sunday, August 5.