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Seattle Reign FC get burned by rival Portland Thorns, 4-0

A match the Reign will want to immediately forget, the final result of 4-0 leaving them feeling "horrible" according to Jessica Fishlock.

Last Updated
5 min read
Jaime Valdez / USA Today

In what is becoming a familiar refrain for the Seattle Reign in 2024, 90 minutes of effort leads to no points for the Reign. One defensive lapse in the first half along with an inch-perfect shot was enough to hand the Portland Thorns the win. A questionable (at best) refereeing decision late in the second half shifted all momentum in favor of the Thorns, putting the game well out of reach of the Reign attack. Two late goals from the Thorns would put the final score at 4-0. A difficult and demoralizing result given the Reign's place in the standings, especially since the Reign had the better of the Thorns throughout much of the match. The Reign are now 2-7-1, having just seven points from 10 matches.

Match Summary

The Reign were effective in the first half, making strong tackles, connecting through the midfield, and putting in dangerous crosses. Center referee Abdou Ndiaye was letting physical play go, for the most part, and the Reign took advantage. Though the Thorns would go into the break with the most fouls, the Reign had the stronger and more effective tackles. The Thorns were able to find space outside of the box for a few of their own shots, but they were wide and generally unthreatening. Phoebe McClernon, Lauren Barnes, Shae Holmes and Sophia Huerta were once again effective and organized in limiting any space for the Thorns' forwards.

The Reign had their most dangerous attacks of the game off of Ji So-Yun's set pieces. Veronika Latsko had a nice relatively open header in the box from a Ji corner that ended up about 10 yards wide, and in first half stoppage Jessica Fishlock had a glancing header from a Ji free kick that Thorns keeper Shelby Hogan just barely got a had to, and Bethany Balcer's resulting volley header was expertly cleared off the line by Thorns defender Kelli Hubly.

Unfortunately for the Reign, the Thorns breakthrough came in the 42nd minute. A Hogan goal kick was flicked forward by Christine Sinclar into open space for Sophia Smith to run onto. She carried the ball wide into the Reign box, then cut it back to an open Olivia Moultrie at the top of the box. Moultrie's one-time shot was inch-perfect, curling impossibly accurately to the upper V of the far post and into the net, giving Laurel Ivory no chance at heroics.

After the break, the match settled back into a relatively familiar rhythm: physical play in the middle of the pitch, some nice connections between Reign midfielders, solid defensive organization, and an all too familiar "lack of quality" in the final third. The Reign's struggles were summed up when around the 70th minute Huerta won the ball in the Thorns' box with a physical tackle, with an open look on goal. She tried to take a touch to her left for a better shooting angle around defenders closing in, but it was a little too heavy. Her resulting left footed shot was easily blocked, then ricocheted back into Huerta, hitting her arm and causing her to hit herself in the face.

A few minutes later, Huerta would again end up with the ball ricocheting into her hand in the box, but this time it was the defensive end. Huerta went to block a shot and succeeded, but the resulting deflection off her leg shot the ball up and back, hitting her outstretched arm. Though calling a handball PK is against IAFB guidelines in a situation where the ball deflects off a defender's leg and into their arms, and it was not called a PK in real time, VAR sent Ndiaye to the review board. Ndiaye eventually awarded the Thorns a PK and showed Huerta a yellow card after a lengthy review. Smith buried the resulting PK, leaving the score 2-0 Thorns.

Having already brought on Emeri Adames for Latsko earlier, Laura Harvey called in Ryanne Brown and Nikki Stanton for McClernon and Olivia van der Jagt to try and tilt the field in the other direction. Tziarra King would enter a few minutes later for Olivia Athens. The substitutes initially had the desired effect, with the Reign coming in waves and having dangerous possession in the final third, though, as usual, no dangerous shots generated. After withstanding these initial waves of pressure, the field tilted sharply in favor of the Thorns, the Reign having the wind taken out of their sails. Hina Sugita and Peyton Linnehan would score in stoppage time, both goals assisted by Smith, for a final score of 4-0.


The familiar refrain for the Thorns came back to haunt them, the lack of quality in the final third. After the match Fishlock mused that everyone who finds themselves in the attack needs to be examining whether their runs are right, their passes are right, and that a lot of that is "a tiny bit off" right now. That it would have to be addressed through watching the film, taking accountability, and working hard in training. Barnes had one thing to add "be ruthless."

On the other end, the Thorns were ruthless. Moultrie was ruthless in finishing the one good opportunity the Thorns had in the first half. The Thorns players were adamant that the ball deflecting into Huerta's arm was a PK (which is probably an objectively incorrect application of the rule) and Smith was ruthless in finishing her PK. Tacking on two goals in stoppage while already leading 2-0 was ruthless. The Reign were not ruthless, and outside of the match against the Wave last Friday, the Reign have not been ruthless this season, a big part of why the find themselves in this hole.


The funny thing about momentum in sports is that it can often explain everything and nothing. The Reign had a bit of momentum coming into this match, having beat the Wave while down a player for essentially 90+ minutes and shutting out the best team in the league. The Reign had momentum in the first half having controlled the play and generating some quality chances. But one quick goal off a goal kick at one end and a goal-line clearance on the other later, and the Thorns were the ones up going into half.

The second half was a similar story, the Reign had the momentum, getting the ball into the box for some dangerous possession, but it was a "handball" in the box at the other end that gave the Thorns the insurance goal. Fishlock called them "nothing goals," a fitting description of goals that came against the momentum the Reign were generating, especially since one goal was a reward for what was at best a questionable application of the rules. At the end of the day though, those "nothing" goals counted. Even just the first was enough for the Thorns to win this one, as after the second goal, the momentum began swinging to the Thorns's sails. And the Thorns rode that momentum to two killer goals in stoppage time.

What's Next

The Reign's next match is home against Orlando Pride, Sunday May 19th at 3:00 pm Pacific. Orlando is coming off a 1-0 win against Bay FC and are first place in the league. After tying their first three games of the season, Orlando is bringing a six-game win streak to Seattle. The match will be available for streaming on NWSL+.