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Seattle Reign stumble defensively, fall 2-1 to Chicago Red Stars

Ji So-yun's brilliant strike wasn't enough for the Reign in Bridgeview.

Last Updated
4 min read
© Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

On a characteristically sunny and bitter cold day in Bridgeview, the Seattle Reign once again failed to take points on the road against the Chicago Red Stars.

The first half was back-and-forth with good chances for both sides, but only the Red Stars were able to capitalize with a 42nd-minute goal by Julia Bianchi after a bad giveaway, a heroic block by Quinn, and several consecutive failures by the Reign to just clear their lines. The Reign closed out the half with a few half-chances but went into the break trailing.

In the second half, the Reign came out with purpose, dominating the ball and creating chances, and they ultimately equalized the score on a did you see that?! goal-of-the-millennium candidate by Ji So-yun, who chested the ball down and delivered it to the upper right corner with physics-defying bend and alacrity. Unfortunately, just five minutes later, Maximiliane Rall slipped Lily Woodham and got in behind the Reign defense after another inexplicable spell of refusing to simply clear the lines, restoring Chicago's lead.

Despite some late flashes of intent and some painful near misses from Ji, Emeri Adames, and Tziarra King, the Red Stars would not relinquish the lead a second time, and the Reign were handed their ninth all-time loss away at Chicago.

WHAT WORKED: Ji So-yun Forever!

Got your frustration at the result worked out yet? We don't either, but watch this goal. Then watch it again. Then, goddamn, watch it another time.

It's Ji So-yun's first goal for the Seattle Reign, but she had multiple other looks that could've scored on another day, and two matches in, she looks ready to wreck some days, claim some souls, and pick up right where she left off when she departed Chelsea as an unimpeachable legend.

And, well, she's capable of doing that at any given moment.

WHAT WORKED: Purposeful Possession

The Reign dominated possession throughout the match, consistently working the ball into dangerous spaces and consistently getting themselves into the spots they needed to be in to score. It didn't all come together – like last week, the execution is still not quite there – but it's extremely promising to see the Reign take on a good team, on the road, and take the game right to them for 90 minutes.

The Reign took seven shots in the central penalty area, and others at the top wide areas of the box, with an early Ji So-yun volley and a late deflected Tziarra King shross whistling tantalizingly close to finding the corners of the net. The Reign were able to create chances. A little more execution, a little quicker trigger when the shooting lane is there, a little better service from wide areas, and they could just as easily have walked away from Bridgeview with a result.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK: Clearing The F--king Lines

Chicago is a menacing team in transition, and while the Reign mostly did a good job bottling up Mallory Swanson and Allison Schlegel, they did themselves no favors on the two goals they conceded. On both sequences, the Reign had multiple opportunities to clear the ball deep, and on both sequences, the Reign failed on multiple occasions to clear the ball deep.

On the first goal, after a desperate Phoebe McClernon tackle to slow things down and a brilliant Quinn takeaway to buy space, the Reign frustratingly turned it over again, and when it fell to Bianchi, there was no longer anything McClernon or Angharad James-Turner could do to prevent a fantastic strike. On the second, after the Reign again unnecessarily gave up possession for Chicago to recycle the attack, Lily Woodham lost track of Rall's far post run, and Rall made no mistake with the ball at her feet.

Sometimes you just have to hit the shit out of it. They can't score with a ball that's in the bleachers. These are uncharacteristic defensive errors from the Reign and fixable, but on the day, they cost the team at least one and arguably all three points.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK: Dialing In the Service

While the possession game was strong and the Reign manufactured a number of decent chances up the middle, the most space was available out wide, where Sofia Huerta and Woodham were consistently able to get high up the field and deliver crosses, and both failed to create much danger with them.

With thirty(!) crosses attempted and four(!!) completed, the Reign's attack struggled to take advantage of the wide-open wide areas. The service has to be better. Woodham and Huerta are both very capable of a killer service, and we'll need to see it from them going forward.

"It doesn't tend to mean much when you come away with no points."

A frustrated Laura Harvey dialed in on her team falling asleep and surrendering the lead:

"We actually got hold of the game a little bit before we scored and then we took our foot off the gas again on their second goal." She then noted that, despite taking control of the game late, the Reign couldn't generate that big chance to really pressure Chicago. "And yeah, I just thought late in the game, we didn't really manage the game well enough to really hurt them and, you know, test Alyssa."

"I felt we were the better team overall, but it doesn't tend to mean much when you come away with no points."

"The second goal was on me at the back post."

In the post-match press conference, Lily Woodham was quick to both recognize that the Reign needed to do better with their chances and to accept responsibility for her missed mark:

"I think we dominated most of the game, and we had good spells, good possession. I think we all know, we can take our chances, and I'll be the first one to hold up my hands and say that the second goal was on me at the back post. I should be there."

"But, yeah, we'll reflect on it and go again next week."

The long road trip continues on Friday, as the Seattle Reign head to California to take on the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium. San Diego has been a friendly field for the Reign. With any luck, they can keep that going.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM PT on Friday, March 29. The match will stream on Prime Video.