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Reign defeat UW women, 2-1, in preseason friendly

Goals from Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer secure the win.

Last Updated
4 min read
Steve Voght / Sounder at Heart

Seattle Reign FC traveled up to Montlake on a chilly Wednesday night for their annual preseason friendly against the University of Washington women’s soccer team. The Reign earned a 2-1 victory in front of 2,173 fans, many of whom were there to cheer both sides. Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer scored for the Reign, while Jadyn Holdenried notched the Huskies’ goal.

The Reign used a mix of first-choice and key backup players to start the match. A few players remain unavailable – Jordyn Huitema and Quinn are with Canada for the W Gold Cup, Alana Cook is still recovering from injury, and Lauren Barnes did not dress for the match. The initial formation was a 4-4-2 with a box midfield, where Olivia Van Der Jagt and Angharad James served as a double-pivot, while Ji So-Yun and Jess Fishlock shared duties as attacking mids / withdrawn forwards.

The Reign dominated the first half hour and pinned the Huskies back in their own half, but had very little to show for it. The club appeared to be practicing to break through a block defense with long passes from the centerbacks up to the forwards and had some success with nicely weighted balls from Phoebe McClernon and Shae Holmes, but final touches were just slightly off, half-chances went wanting, or shots were blocked. That all changed in the 35th minute when the UW defense failed to clear a ball in the box, and in the ensuing scramble Fishlock worked a nice give-and-go with Tziarra King to get herself wide open six yards from goal and easily chipped the ball to the far post, past the onrushing goalkeeper.

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UW equalized only minutes later on their first significant foray into the Reign end. A counterattack appeared to have fizzled out as the Reign defense reset, but they ceded too much space to Holdenried about 25 yards from goal and she launched a pinpoint rocket to the far upper corner which left Ivory flat-footed and unable to react. That would end up being the Huskies’ only shot of the game.

The match opened up at that point and the Reign pressed hard to regain the lead, with Fishlock smashing her own long-distance shot off the crossbar a minute later, but the game went into halftime level.

The second half opened with nearly a complete line change for the Reign. Julia Lester, Lily Woodham, Kenzie Weinert, Bethany Balcer, draft picks Maddie Mercado and Sam Meza and non-roster invitee Emeri Adames entered the match, while McClernon, Sofia Huerta, Fishlock, James, Ji, King and Veronica Latsko exited.

The team formation shifted to a 4-3-1-2, with a back four of Brown, Lester, Holmes and Woodham, and band of three featuring Adames in front of Woodham, Van Der Jagt in the middle, and Mercado in front of Brown. Meza moved into the attacking mid role, and Balcer and Weinert were up top. When the Reign had the ball in the attacking half, Adames was tasked with making secondary runs toward the top of the box, shifting the formation and creating some overloads.

The Reign continued to control the game, but once again were lacking a bit of polish in the final third. The unsigned players looked comfortable out there, with just the occasional mistouch or slow decision-making to be expected from a young player.

In the 71st minute, draft pick, former Husky and Seattle native Makena Carr subbed into the game for Brown to a raucous round of applause from the crowd. The Reign finally got their breakthrough in the 79th minute when Weinert was first to a loose ball in the UW box and was taken down by a poorly timed tackle. Balcer stepped up to take the ensuing penalty and calmly slotted her shot low and to the right while the keeper guessed wrong.

The remainder of the Reign bench emptied in the 83rd minute when Nikki Stanton replaced Shae Holmes at centerback, Olivia Athens entered for Van Der Jagt, and non-roster invitee Giana Gourley came on for Adames. Balcer made one more highlight reel play in the waning seconds of the game as she came all the way back to the top of her own box to disrupt a play where UW had broken through the Reign defense and looked to be in on goal.

Seattle Reign have one more preseason game – a closed-door match against the Portland Thorns at Providence Park on Saturday, March 9 at 3 PM PT.  After that, final roster decisions must be made next week and the NWSL regular season kicks off at Lumen Field on Sunday, March 17 at 3 PM PT against the Washington Spirit. 


  • The Reign wore their new Reflection kits, with matching dark shorts and socks. The gold trim and numbers shone brightly under the stadium lights and looked very good in person.
  • Fishlock and Ji had several entertaining sequences of interplay where the two seemed almost to be stunting with the ball and left befuddled defenders in their wake. Considering they’ve only had a few practices together, this partnership could blossom into some very entertaining soccer as they get more in sync.
  • Olivia Van Der Jagt showed a lot of command and leadership. When the fullbacks would push forward she often dropped back to serve as an auxiliary centerback to mop up any balls that came into the area, she frequently served as the fulcrum to start attacking sequences from deep, and she was very vocal in providing instruction and guidance to her teammates about positioning and tactics.
  • As Susie noted in her recap of the Reign/Costa Rica game, Sam Meza is a pest in a very good way. She was buzzing all over the field, harassing opponents and quickly cutting off passing lanes with high pressure.
  • The remaining roster spots are a toss-up to me. Mercado and Adames got the longest run-outs in this game and fit in well, but neither did anything to really stand out from the others vying for those spots.
  • Andrea Leyva, sister of Sounders midfielder Danny Leyva, is a recently enrolled freshman who made her debut for the Huskies, playing about half of the match.