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Reign short-circuit the Current, settle for draw

Laurel Ivory led the Seattle Reign defense in another impressive effort to shut out league-leaders.

Last Updated
5 min read
Seattle Reign goalkeeper Laurel Ivory dives to block a shot in a game against the Kansas CIty Current in May 2024.
© Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Current entered their midweek match against the Seattle Reign as league leaders, scoring 21 goals in 7 matches – an astounding 3 goals per-game average. They had not been shut out... until they met Laurel Ivory. The Reign goalkeeper made six difficult saves against 19 shots (5 on goal), along with seven(!) shots blocked by the defense and another "save" when a ball bounced off of Sofia Huerta's hip and nearly into the net for an own goal. Ivory stood on her head and kept the first clean sheet of her NWSL career. While the Reign were the first to admit they "lacked quality" going the other way, it was a gritty performance against what has been far and away the best team in the league this year.

Match Summary

With both teams on a stretch of three matches in a week, each had somewhat rotated lineups. Laura Harvey chose to start the match with Bethany Balcer and Jess Fishlock on the bench (Alana Cook was a late scratch with illness) and Vlatko Andonovski sat some regular KC starters like Claire Spaanstra and Elizabeth Ball.

The Current came out of the kickoff flying, applying aggressive pressure whenever the Reign had a moment on the ball. Their tactics worked, generating some turnovers and lumped clearances that KC defenders collected and cycled into possession. KC's best early chance came off of a turnover near the top of the 18, generated by KC's press. Olivia van der Jagt, after a poor pass is sent back at her by the KC defense, couldn't quite get control of the ball and Vanessa DiBernardo poked it to Michelle Cooper. Cooper then hit a rocket from just outside the 18, and Ivory was able to jump and high-point it, parrying the shot up and over the net.

After eventually dealing with the ensuing corner kick, the Reign started getting more into the match with some stretches of possession. Ji So-Yun looked as lively as ever, finding open spaces to hold possession and connecting to others in the attack. She was able to create a few chances for herself, but her two shots were from beyond 20 yards and did not truly test Current goalkeeper AD Franch.

The most dangerous moment of the match came when Claire Lavogez found herself open on the right side of the box, sending in a beautifully weighted ball towards the back post. Huerta found herself in its path and tried to control the ball, but it caromed off her and straight toward goal. Fortunately, Ivory's reflexes were quick enough that she saved it with a swipe, and Huerta cleared the danger.

Each side had a handful more looks through the end of the half, but the defenses were up to the task. One tactical shift was KC moving around Temwa Chawinga between center forward and right wing, testing the matchups to see if she could use her speed and quality to get in behind the defense. For most of the first half, Chawinga was trying to take on Phoebe McClernon to no avail. McClernon was defensively disciplined and did not let Chawinga get past her. KC's best attacks came from the right when Lavogez swung out very wide while McClernon was pulled to the middle to guard DiBernardo or Chawinga, as in the highlight above.

Going the other direction, the Reign were trying to work play through the middle to van der Jagt and Ji, but converting that possession into danger was lacking. Poor touches, poor passes, and slow decision-making meant the Reign were generally dropping possession back to the defense without creating much danger. Eventually the defense would try an entry ball over the top to the winger or a cross to the opposite side, but Emory Adames or Veronica Latsko found little success running onto these balls in open space or controlling them for positive possession.

The second half was less frenetic than the first half, with few quality chances for either side. The Current continued to dominate possession, while Ivory had a couple more saves, one easy and another impressive. The Reign defense mostly limited the Current to half-chances with no real end product to show for it. The Reign ended the night with 44 clearances (Current had 9).

Lily Woodham, Nikki Stanton and Bethany Balcer entered the match in the 61st minute for Adames, Olivia Athens and Angharad James-Turner. Balcer looked dangerous at times and Woodham was active at right midfield, while Stanton made a few crucial clearances in the box. But the Reign continued to struggle to control possession, especially after Debinha entered for the Current in the 65th minute. Harvey eventually pressed her emergency Fishlock button and brought Jess on in the 77th minute.

Fishlock was immediately a calming presence in possession, as she was able to sit deep and provide an outlet. The Reign spent the rest of the match probing for chances, but were cautious to not give the Current any time or space to create quality chances going the other direction. Chawinga, second in the golden boot race, found herself on the ball driving at the defense a few times late, after she had shifted to the #9 position, but was smothered by Barnes and Holmes or by Stanton dropping deep. The defense was up to the task and saw out the match.


Job #1 for the Reign was clearly to stop the Current's attack. James and van der Jagt were excellent shielding the back line, and Huerta and McClernon were disciplined out wide and generally did not let Current attackers get in behind. Ji even helped out with a very nice tackle on DiBernardo in the box to snuff out a potential chance after a corner kick.

Harvey's first thought on the match was "gritty," after Latsko said that the win on Friday "shows that the team has grit, and that's the backbone of a championship kind of team." The Reign needed these kinds of grind-em-out results to earn points and get a foothold on the table. They are still by-and-large the same squad that went to the NWSL Championship Final last year, largely on the back of their defense. They will need more clean sheets like Wednesday to get there, but this is a valuable building block.


Both Ivory and Harvey said the side lacked quality against Kansas City, which was especially apparent going forward. Whether it was mis-played passes, missed runs, or miscontrolled balls, the Reign looked out of rhythm for much of the night in the attack. About the lack of quality, Ivory said, "once we get those pieces right, the outcome of this game will turn, and I have no doubt we will get it together."

You could see the basis of her hope on the field. Players were often in the right positions and saw the right passes, but the little things were not connecting. If Fishlock was in for the full 90, maybe she's able to connect a little better with Ji to allow Ji possession in more attacking positions. With Jordyn Huitema expected to be healthy soon, maybe the Reign will be able to get onto some of those forward passes or hold up the ball a little better. And maybe (probably) the Current are just so good themselves that it is that difficult to find the space to attack. Whatever the root cause, there are plenty of lessons to take away from this one, one of which is how far the Reign's grit can take them when their quality is not at its best.

Up Next

The Reign are immediately looking to Saturday's big Cascadia matchup with the Portland Thorns. Health will be a big concern, with the Reign looking to get Huitema involved and hoping that Cook is recovered from her illness. The match is a major opportunity to make a move up the standings, as the Reign would pull within three points of the Thorns with a win and potentially into a playoff spot. That match kicks off Saturday, May 11 at 7:00 PM PT at Providence Park.