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Vlatko Andonovski praises Reign’s mentality heading into NWSL playoffs

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After a disappointing regular season finale, the Reign head coach is thrilled with his squad’s response in training.

Photo by MikeRussellFoto

It’s never a good feeling to end the regular season with one of the worst losses of the year. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Seattle Reign FC did last Friday, as the team fell 3-1 to their rivals Portland Thorns FC on the road — stringing together a performance that will hopefully never be repeated.

The loss also took away home-field advantage for Reign FC’s NWSL playoff semifinal, instead forcing Seattle to make a trip back down to Providence Park to once again face a Portland team that seems to be improving every day. While Seattle has lost one game by a larger margin this year, both Jodie Taylor and head coach Vlatko Andonovski were quick to call their performance the worst of the season on a conference call this week.

“The team that competed against Portland was not the team that was competing this whole season,” Andonovski said during the call with reporters.

In a follow-up conversation with Sounder at Heart, Andonovski expanded on this comment. “I don’t want to take anything away from Portland. They’ve done a very good job and they beat us fair and square. But at the same time, I believe that’s one of the worst games that we played. Even physically, we did not perform anywhere near to our best.”

Andonovski said that the data coming from the players confirmed that it was their second worst game from a fitness and physicality standpoint (their worst was the 0-0 draw in Utah, the team’s first experience playing at altitude and with intense heat).

Seeing last weekend’s game, it would be easy to write off Seattle already, as it feels like the odds might be stacking up against them. But Andonovski has been thrilled with the team’s response in training this week.

“I have to tell you, the mentality that we have ... the training has been so good and it’s probably the best in the whole season. We definitely didn’t want to lose that game, but it seems like something good came out of it. It’s the change in mentality. It was almost like something that we needed before this game.”

It wasn’t really one player stepping up to motivate the rest of the squad. The Reign coach praised the whole team for coming together to motivate a big response for the playoffs. He said they had an important discussion, where they asked and evaluated: Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?

The response to these questions, Andonovski said, “was amazing.” Come Saturday, he shared that the team concluded, “When it comes down to two good teams playing against each other, anything can happen, but we’re not going down like this. That was the bottom line. We’re not going down like this. That’s all you can ask from them, they give everything that they have, and at the end of the day whatever happens, happens.”

Providence Park has proven itself an electric atmosphere, no matter which team you are rooting for. Reign FC players like Jess Fishlock and Lauren Barnes have praised Thorns fans for the environment they create, even for opposing teams. They’ve also mentioned how much they like to silence these same fans. Reign FC didn’t have the chance to do that last weekend, but they are ready to show the league what this team really represents on Saturday.

“It will be an exciting match. It will be a good show,” Andonovski said.