Editor’s note: we asked our friends at Stumptown Footy to break down how they see the Seattle Reign this season, in the spirit of the fun rivalry that the Reign/Thorns is. We did the same for them for the Portland Thorns. Check them out for their high quality coverage of the other NWSL team in the Pacific Northwest.
The first thing to say is that the Thorns are absolutely delighted to not be playing this game at Memorial. Memorial is weird, you know that right? Sure, it’s a lovely historical venue, but most stadiums don’t require visitors to pee on rusty walls. It’s tiny, there are football lines on it, and the ball just bounces weird there. Avoiding a trip up there was as much motivation for the Thorns to come out swinging and win Friday’s game as anything.
The Thorns have been a strange team this year: for almost all of the season they’ve been incomplete, missing players, trying to integrate new ones. They looked eight weeks ago like they were still trying to figure out how to play with each other, and now they look like an unstoppable force. Because of the journey the team has been on, Thorns fans remain anxious about this team’s ability to compete consistently at a high level.
The Reign, by contrast, have looked like a real soccer-ball kicking machine at times this season, with the team taking to coach Vlatko Andonovski’s system nicely. Their rebuilt defense, best in the league, looks pretty smothering when everyone is on the same page. Lydia Williams looks like one of the best goalkeepers in the league (alongside Adrianna Franch, of course) and Megan Oyster and Theresa Nielsen have been a revelation. When it comes down to it, though, it’s a couple of people on the Reign that the Thorns fans will be playing most attention to.
Both one of the most accomplished pure system coaches in NWSL history, and a wiley trickster who loves nothing more than drawing up quick restarts and inbound plays. The master of the quick throw-in. During his Kansas City years, he was one of Portland’s great nemeses, knocking them out of the semifinal in 2014 with a team that would go on to beat Seattle in the final. Above all of that, though, he’s a man who truly loves soccer and is also possibly one of the nicest people on earth, and a genuine joy to speak to.
Fishlock likes the Portland/Seattle rivalry more than possibly anyone else does. She claps when the Portland fans boo her. She keeps a list of her favorite games on deck for press conferences, including the game where she scored an own goal. Her dedication to being Portland’s villain is admirable. The fact that she’s a great player makes it even better. Her goal last Friday, from the top of the box with Sonnett in her face, underlines her ability and her readiness to make anything happen with the smallest amount of space available to her.
Rapinoe was in the middle of putting together another MVP-quality season only to have it disrupted by injury again. She’s capable of ruining any defender that happens to be in her way, and her running battle with Ellie Carpenter (dating back to the 2017 Tournament of Nations) is one of the most compelling individual matchups in the league. Rapinoe roasted Carpenter on and off the field in the 2018 edition of the same tournament, saying afterward, “She’s young and maybe not as savvy as some defenders but I felt like she was just giving me too much of what I wanted and what was comfortable for me and so she just needs to switch that up a little bit”. As much as Thorns fans love Ellie Carpenter, we appreciate the need to put teenagers in their place. Just, you know, not next weekend.
New to the rivalry, but if Friday is any indication, Addo gets it already. She’s a tornado in the middle of the field, closing down players, winning loose balls and quickly moving into offense when the ball gets turned over. Not only that but she was fully ready to throw hands with Lindsay Horan should the situation come to that, which is something I would personally be way too scared to do.
The player we most missed on Friday, though, has to be Allie Long. Long is a Thorns legend: up until this season she was Portland’s all-time leading scorer. We loved her for her dedication to the game and the way in which she dragged herself into being a great player by sheer force of personality, and Thorns fans still think of her fondly. The ways in which she’s embraced her new team and thrived there is good to see. Of course, that also means she’s embraced the rivalry, and has thus decided that her team plays soccer the right way and no one else does. She’ll be ready to make sure everyone really misses her.
Portland is genuinely looking forward to playing host to a great rivalry. Thanks to all of the Seattle fans who will be coming down to party. Enjoy yourselves and say hello to us afterwards!
Finally, shout out to the Reign coverage at Ride of the Valkyries and their excellent Coffee and Valkyries podcast. We’re all jealous that you get to chat with every single one of the Reign players almost every week.