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Reign end losing streak with a disappointing scoreless draw

The defense finally put in a solid 90 minute shift, but the attack lacked bite.

Last Updated
4 min read
Forward Jodyn Huitema expresses frustration as the Reign attack struggled to generate scoring opportunities against Portland.
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

The Seattle Reign failed to score in their fourth straight Cascadia matchup against the Portland Thorns on Sunday, sending fans home disappointed on both sides of the Columbia. The match was there for the taking, with the Thorns missing multiple key players, including star striker and MVP candidate Sophia Smith. For much of the match the Reign seemed the stronger side, limiting quality chances and creating danger of their own, with 10 shots (5 on goal) for the Reign and 6 shots (3 on goal) for the Thorns. Reign goalkeeper Claudia Dickey, making her return to the lineup after an injury, only needed to make one easy save. Unfortunately, Thorns goalkeeper Shelby Hogan also only needed to make two easy saves of her own.

The Reign "improve" to 2-2-2 at home and eight points in the standings.

First half

The first half was relatively uneventful. Possession was relatively even, and both sides had some decent chances. Seattle's best chances came from direct balls up to Bethany Balcer or Jordyn Huitema, with the two trying to combine for open shots. Huitema had a few chances from good positions that were mishit (or hit as she was slipping). Balcer was in good positions as usual, couldn't find a good shot. The return of Quinn was most welcome in the midfield; overall their play in the half linked the back line to the attack and made sure Portland did not have success driving the ball through the midfield. However, they were caught in possession and seemed to tire late in the half.

Going the other direction, Portland's best opportunities came from overloading the flanks with numbers to attack the space in behind Reign fullbacks Ryanne Brown and Sofia Huerta, with a few dangerous crosses coming in that Thorns attackers were not able to get on the end of. Portland had a few more chances when a Seattle defender made a poor pass or Quinn lost a tackle in the defensive third, and Portland was able to attack with an advantage. Fortunately for Seattle, Phoebe McClernon and Huerta were able to recover after others turned the ball over and stop Portland's best chances. Dickey did not actually have to make a significant save in the first half.

Second half

The second half saw one immediate change – Olivia van der Jagt on for Quinn. Early in the half Portland found some good opportunities, working it down the right, getting the ball in the box and hoping something would happen, but the Reign defenders were up to the task. Eventually the Reign took control of the match, with Tziarra King coming on for Veronica Latsko, then Shae Holmes on for Brown. King, Huerta and Ji So-Yun had some nice moments creating triangles and attacking down the right wing, but crosses from Huerta or King were easily defended out. Still, it seemed like a breakthrough was in the cards as Seattle continued piling on pressure.

Later Olivia Athens came on for Ji and Emeri Adames for Balcer for the 10 minutes of stoppage time. Adames had a few good moments in possession, using her skill and speed to find open lanes of attack, and Huitema waved off a sub to continue her hard work of holding up play in the middle and trying to get open for a shot. But the final product never materialized, and all Seattle could do in the second half was send a handful of shots from outside the box sailing high over the crossbar.

Failure to launch

A "lack of quality" has been the theme of the Reign this season, especially when they are unable to pair a good defensive performance with a good offensive performance. The Reign have scored 13 goals on the year, better than four other teams and right in line with the Courage (13) and Gotham (14), who both are in playoff positions. The biggest problem has been defense, with the Reign allowing 25 goals on the year, the most in the league. The Reign cannot waste a strong defensive outing like today by failing to score.

It seems that something needs to change for the Reign to have more consistently dangerous attacks. One potential solution is to change the lineup, potentially by giving more minutes to King or Adames. Adames in particular looked dangerous, but her time on the field was short so it is hard to draw too many conclusions. King had a more extended runout, and she had good moments working triangles and finding the ball in the final third. But she had the same issues as most of the Reign, as she could not make a quality cross that found a Reign player for a shot and did not take any shots of her own.

The attack is an area where the Reign could be much improved, and the answer may need to be an addition or two to the squad.

The Quinn question

The capability of the defense to limit moments of transition was night and day compared to last week in Kansas City. Part of that is the incredible league-leading team Kansas City has built, and this week being at home against a weakened Thorns squad. But another big part was Quinn returning to help shield the defense. They were able to get into passing lanes and force attacks wide or back, letting the Reign defense get back in transition.

However, it was clear that Quinn was not quite fit enough to go a full match. They seemed a little exhausted from covering all across the back line by late in the first half, and they had some uncharacteristic giveaways when trying to help the defense play it out of the back. Van der Jagt came on at the break and was effective, but that has not always been the case this year. Can Quinn get fully fit for the Reign going forward? If not, should they be starting and come off early, or should they be an early sub if the game calls for it? Will the Reign leak goals in their absence? This is one of the bigger questions that Laura Harvey will face going into the Olympic break and after the league resumes.

What's next

The Reign have now played exactly half of their season: 13 of 26 matches. Their eight points is second-worst in the league, only better than woeful expansion side Utah Royals. Though the gap to a playoff position is just seven points – Racing Louisville is currently in eighth with 15 points – it seems like a yawning chasm based on the Reign's form this year, but they have a big opportunity to make up some ground as their next match is at home against Racing, on Sunday June 23rd at 3:00 pm PT.