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Seattle Reign FC kick off 2024 season with 1-0 win over Washington Spirit

Bethany Balcer converts a penalty in the 3rd minute and team defense contains Washington for Seattle's first win in 2024.

Last Updated
5 min read
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

The wait is over, we are finally here once more - the 2024 NWSL season has kicked off and today, Seattle Reign FC, back with "The Queen" crest with a hint of gold kicked off their 2024 campaign. It did not take long for Seattle to get their first goal on the season as 11 seconds into match, Seattle won a penalty that Bethany Balcer converted for the game's only goal. Seattle Reign FC beat Washington Spirit 1-0 in front of 8,557 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Lumen Field.


That's how long into the 2024 campaign it took for the Reign to get their first goal in. From kickoff, Reign sent the ball in over the top, intended for Jordyn Huitema. She was taken down in the box and won a penalty one minute in. After VAR confirmation, Bethany Balcer stepped up to the spot and converted it.


Ji So-yun, Angharad James-Turner and Lily Woodham made their first Reign FC starts today. Ji lead the team in both touches, with 75, and in passing accuracy with 82.8%. After the dust settled with a late Aubrey Kingsbury red card, Ji went for goal on the free kick just outside the top of the box, and if it were just five yards further back, she probably would have capped the evening with her first NWSL goal. James-Turner returned to the NWSL without missing a beat as it can never be a bad thing to be playing next to one of your compatriots in Jess Fishlock. Woodham hit the ground running in terms of being best prepared as one can be going into their first NWSL start. All three new faces who got the start made good first impressions for Reign fans in showing what they can do on the field.


A Washington Spirit equalizer was negated because Washington's Croix Bethune boxed out Claudia Dickey like she was getting ready for the putback dunk. Aubrey Kingsbury was sent off after VAR ruled she had handled the ball outside of the 18-yard box by perhaps the tiniest of margins and denied the Reign a goal-scoring opportunity.


The contrarian take is Seattle should have put in a second or third goal and Harvey admitted that some of the build up play they had in the first half could have, should have been finished to what she would have called, "goal of the season" types. Harvey also said as part of her post-game presser that if a team plays their absolute best in the first game of the season, then something's wrong. While everyone was pleased with getting the win and the clean sheet to start the season, there should be – and by the admission of the players and Harvey – are things for everyone to work on and improve. The NWSL season is a long one and there should be time to show they are capable of scoring multiple goals in a match.

"As long as I'm coach, we'll never rebuild."

Reign FC's offseason was obviously headlined by the departures: Megan Rapinoe retired, Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett, Angelina, Elyse Bennett, Alyssa Malonson, and Sam Hiatt all went to new clubs in the league. Though they brought in new players, the question has been are the Reign still able to compete where teams around the NWSL made some big money moves, or are they rebuilding? Laura Harvey had a strong rebuke to any outside narrative that the Seattle Reign FC are rebuilding. Harvey elaborated:

"I can't do that. I want to win, and if that means we win by bringing in the likes of Ji (So-yun), great. If that means we win by bringing in a 17-year-old kid, great. If we look at our team, I think we have quality everywhere. We have experience, we have youth, we have a lot of different elements to us. So I think rebuild just says to me - this year doesn't matter and that's not what it is. We're evolving. To lose someone like Megan Rapinoe, it would be unfair to say so and so is going to replace her, that's not what's gonna happen, but we have to evolve. I wish she was an infinity and could live forever and play forever, but she can't. So we have to evolve, and I think rebuild just says that this doesn't matter and it does. We want to win. I think we showed today we have some quality, there'll be some tough times no doubt, but today was a good day for us."

"The hardest part of my job is telling players they won't be in the twenty."

Harvey had mentioned in the pre-match press conference that throughout this season, there will be squad rotation, and it won't be strictly because a player is injured. Some players will be on the bench or not selected for a match for various reasons and that is the hardest part of her job. She talked up the depth of the squad and how much quality there is through all levels of the squad, to which you saw that today with how Shae Holmes and Lily Woodham got the start and put in solid shifts.

"We've got so much depth - there is no one that doesn't deserve to be in it because they're great. I think sometimes when you get in a rhythm, especially towards the end of the season, you don't want to make a ton of changes all the time, but at this stage of the season, giving people a chance, letting people play with each other, seeing what each other can bring is amazing. There was a special part about today that we haven't spoke about and that's, we got a 17-year-old on the field today, which is monumental for this club and for that kid, which was great," said Harvey.

"You wait, because this kid is unbelievable."

And speaking of that 17-year old, Emeri Adames, the youngest player in Seattle Reign FC history to appear in an NWSL match, entered the match in the 6th minute of stoppage time in the second half. Harvey was asked post-game what she said to Adames before checking in. She said, "Go score a goal, kid." While that didn't happen, Adames did get some touches of the ball and made a run down the flank. Harvey praised the 17-year old in not just her potential but for putting in the work at training camp to have earned a spot on the squad.

"A kid of her age is making a big decision and I don't take that lightly. So I think we have to be ready to take on that responsibility, we are, we were, and so we were just seeing if there was anybody out there that we thought we would be great. She's a left-footed wide player - say less, so I think that was part of it. We brought her out to pre-season (down in) Costa Rica and honestly, within two days I was like, we need to sign this kid. She is special, and I'm not going to put any pressure on her because she doesn't need that, but she's definitely in a very good place and I think we're all excited about what she could potentially be in the future," said Harvey.

With the first win on the season in the books, Seattle are on the road for their next match, facing the Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois. Chicago won their season kickoff match at Utah Royals FC on Saturday, 2-0. Kickoff for Seattle Reign FC at Chicago Red Stars is scheduled for Saturday, March 23, at 1 PM. The match can be watched on the league's streaming platform, NWSL+.