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Let’s do that again, Seattle

The OL Reign match at Lumen Field was special. It doesn’t need to be a one-time affair.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

I’ve got to admit something: there are times when I want to stop doing this. This being writing about OL Reign. It’s exhausting. I spend hours after my day job every week tracking down stories, working to get quotes, trying to follow games on poorly filmed streams, and writing articles, and it often feels like I’m shouting into a void.

When you write a piece and someone complains about having to read Reign stories on a Seattle soccer website. When you share an update about progress in the women’s game and the first response on social media is, “Who cares?” When you publish an article about the women’s fight for more investment and get a lecture on economics.

It adds up. You hit a point where you ask yourself: What am I doing all this for?

And then, a day like August 29, 2021, reminds me.

Laura Harvey’s OL Reign side put on a show — downing their rivals, the top team in the league, in front of tens of thousands of people who love and appreciate great soccer. And it should be noted that it was a perfectly executed tactical showcase. Instead of opting for their usual possession-heavy game, OL Reign’s forwards sat back and let Portland’s backline keep the ball and dominate possession. When they tried to advance, however, the Reign had numbers in the midfield and were able to pounce on mistakes and create a number of dangerous chances. Two of those chances resulted in goals. One was the game-winner.

But while this game deserves its own tactical breakdown (like how fantastic Quinn was in the deep-lying holding midfield role), it meant a lot more than 3 points to me.

Hearing more than 27,000 people erupt in cheers when Megan Rapinoe buried her first goal. Seeing my 6-year-old niece, who is already begging her parents to play soccer year-round, soak in the afternoon and declare proudly that she finally decided: Rapinoe is her favorite player. Watching a full and loud supporters section following the lead of the Royal Guard capos.

That got me.

There have been days over the years when I am stuck lamenting the fact that far too few people in this region got to see Scottish midfielder Kim Little destroy defenders live and in person. That Rapinoe’s antics and wacky goal-scoring celebrations were only televised during national team games. And that I’ve often been the only woman in a press box that hosted only 3-4 reporters each match.

The narrative shifted on Sunday. A stadium full of people got a match for the ages.

While she didn’t score, those fans witnessed the relentless pressure that France’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Eugenie Le Sommer, puts on her opponents. They saw a bicycle kick attempt from Welsh Dragon and Reign Original Jess Fishlock — who also had an assist, by the way. They caught Sofia Huerta, who has exclusively played in the attack, slotting into the right back spot and shutting down Portland’s wide play. And they might have noticed future U.S. Women’s National Team centerback Alana Cook have her best game in a Reign jersey.

Who knows when the Reign might be back at Lumen Field. After Sunday afternoon, however, it would be silly not to think that day comes rather quickly. And it would be pretty cool to see the Reign get their own stage for a day to see what kind of crowd they can attract on their own.

Since her early Reign days, Laura Harvey has talked about needing to get fans to just one Reign game. Seeing the players live is a much different — and better — experience. And most who appreciate the beautiful game are hooked the second they see this team in person, just like it was for those who went to their first MLS-era Sounders game.

The Emerald City Supporters have inspired an incredible environment at Lumen Field for Sounders games, and they deserve massive appreciation for their support and collaboration with the Royal Guard last weekend. My Sounders season tickets are right by ECS, in 119, for that reason. At the same time, the attendance numbers for Sounders matches wouldn’t be what they are without the more casual fans — the ones who aren’t able to go every weekend but enjoy soaking in the crowd noise as much as the beer and the companionship. The doubleheader experience hopefully showed a few of these fans that — with the right atmosphere — they can feel all those same things watching OL Reign.

And here’s the thing I want to make clear to anyone newly jumping onto the Reign Train. First of all, welcome! Second, the display of talent and tactical execution you saw on Sunday at Lumen Field? That’s just the Reign doing the same Reign things they have done every week. The only difference? About 20,000 more fans pushing them to victory.

All these players put on the same performance every week on the road, or at Cheney Stadium. So, welcome to the ride. If you can, I hope to see you in Tacoma on September 26, or at one of the last two remaining home matches in October. If you can’t make those games, because it’s a SLOG to get to Tacoma for many, I hope you’ll keep reading and joining the discussion about the Reign on this website. We have pre-match analysis, post-game quotes, and gamethreads for each match. Just like for our boys.

Women’s soccer in the Puget Sound region has a chance to thrive. And the world-class players representing the club deserve it. The Reign should be playing at Lumen Field multiple times a year, but that will only happen if the demand continues.

Thank you for making this weekend one of my most memorable gameday experiences of all time. It’s really hard to express in words how much the afternoon meant to me, and I imagine a lot of other Reign fans feel the same way. Let’s do that again sometime soon, yes?

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