It’s been 48 hours since OL Reign played an NWSL regular season match at Lumen Field for the first time, defeating their Cascadia rivals, Portland Thorns FC, courtesy of a Megan Rapinoe brace.
The impact and memories of a very good and special Sunday are going to be with a lot of us for a long time.
The eloquent words that my colleagues Susie and Jeremiah wrote about Sunday, there’s not much I could say that both didn’t already in reflecting on how good Sunday was. Though I do ask you, the reader, to allow me to say a little something.
Not a lot of things in life are permanent. Especially in sports. Even before the pandemic, I’ve thought about that while I very much continue to have fun doing this, I know this isn’t permanent. The team could move. There could be a change in my everyday life and I just don’t have the capacity to cover the team anymore. Stuff happens, life happens. So if it ended tomorrow for whatever reason, I know I enjoyed my time, the friends I’ve made along the way, and I cannot thank anyone, everyone enough that appreciated my efforts in covering the team. But to have been able to see it, experience it myself that FINALLY, the Reign played a game in that stadium. The crowd, the energy, the excitement, the win, the impact, yeah they did that. Twenty-seven thousand of you gave them your time, energy, and admiration, it all happened.
I was there and I’m glad I got to be.
When we asked Megan Rapinoe, Jess Fishlock, and head coach Laura Harvey in the post-match press conference about the win and the spectacle of everything, of course, they were all appreciative that they, the club, finally got the stage to themselves. There was an audience that might have even exceeded their expectations and skepticism, but it wasn’t lost on any of them that it nearly took a decade for Sunday, August 29, 2021, to be the day they played at the big stadium in Downtown Seattle.
In her press conference today before OL Reign face the Houston Dash in their regular-season series rubber match tomorrow (5 PM PT on CBS Sports Network), I asked Harvey what it was like seeing herself on a tifo display that was very much fitting the grand and historic occasion.
When it first went up, me and Sam (assistant coach Sam Laity) were saying, ‘What does it say, what’s the picture?’ and we couldn’t quite work it out, but I’ve obviously seen after the game how cool the whole thing was. And honestly the whole day, my emotion prior to the game was nerves, probably stress. But after the game, just taking it all in of what that means. And I left the club and came back, it’s always been a place that’s close to my heart, and it’s not about me or individuals. It’s about what this could mean for this club moving forward.
I think every single person that’s touched this club, whether it be a coach, a player, a fan, or a member of staff who’s worked behind the scenes for years, or ownership, investors in this club, we’ve all dreamed of a day like Sunday and we’ve all believed that we deserve that opportunity to have that.
So to be able to do it against Portland and in the rivalry game, win the game was massive for us. To see so many people there, I think that’s something we can’t take for granted.
It was a bittersweet moment of, ‘I’m so glad we got to do this, but I’m so hopeful that we get to do it again and I don’t want it to be as long as it’s been, you know nine and a half years.’
The tifo, the photos are great and all, but it’s not about me. It’s about the bigger picture of what it could mean.
During her first run as head coach of the Reign, Harvey had provided countless memorable quotes after a training session, a match, a fan Q&A session, you name the setting. One that’s always stuck to me was after Kim Little’s debut for the club in the 2014 season opener. There she scored a brace and after the game, Harvey said of her debut, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” And she was right, as Little would only go on treat NWSL pitches like a canvas as she painted some of the most beautiful soccer I’ve ever seen over three seasons.
Hearing Harvey reflect on Sunday — two days removed from the adrenaline of the historic day and a clear focus on a midweek league match — it just hit different to me and my colleagues that logged on for the press conference. Her reflection about finally the club having this stage to show to some 27,000 people who this team is and what they’re capable of had a tone of hope that, yes, this can be the start of something bigger and better. That we can have another match at Lumen Field because this is a team of world-class soccer players, and they deserve the biggest possible stage we have in this region.
Like Jeremiah said, there was no reason to think Harvey would have been involved in Sunday, but maybe it really was just fate that she would return as steward of this team and not just make some cameo as a VIP. Maybe it was meant to be that way all along, even if her return came under the most unexpected circumstances of a mid-season coaching change.
The reaction to Sunday couldn’t be any more clear: people want to see OL Reign will play at Lumen Field again. And ask anyone who was in the stands on Sunday, they’re not waiting for another nine and a half years for the next one. What might have been just the wildest of dreams for Sam Hiatt who is from Newcastle, should be able to see a date she can circle on her calendar in 2022, where she will walk out of that southeast tunnel, in her OL Reign kit as a member of the starting eleven, playing in front some twenty to thirty family members in that stadium the way Jordan Morris has done countless times.
An annual game, maybe two games at Lumen Field, it’s all possible now.
Perhaps that’s what Laura Harvey meant by the bigger picture and what Sunday could mean.