Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

Valkyratings: Vengeful Spirits Edition

Once again the team shows they have ability to dig in and fight back, but with too little, too late.

Last Updated
10 min read
Jess Fishlock of Seattle Reign FC gestures while dribbling against the Washington Spirit in a May 2024 match.
© Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

When the Seattle Reign hosted the Washington Spirit on opening day, they won a soft-ish penalty early and were able to ride out the match to a boring but professional 1-0 win as an utterly toothless Washington seemed utterly bewildered at the mere concept of attacking. Unfortunately, since that match, the teams have trended in very different directions, and on the return journey, a vengeful Spirit side came at the Reign firing, secured an early goal, scored a second on a (nonsense call of a) penalty, and raced out to a 3-0 lead before the Reign even woke up from their afternoon nap.

While there was some decent play and some attacking intent after that, and the Reign ultimately clawed back to "only" lose 3-2 after scoring a stunner in stoppage at the end of each half, it was a match that the Reign were never really in. In this one, at least, the score flattered what was, on the whole, a pretty roundly disgraceful performance, despite some last-gasp magic that was never going to be enough for a result.

The Reign had a week off for an international break, and that gave me, dear reader, a week off from rewatching their matches, but eventually I had to rewatch this one. I then procrastinated writing about it for long enough I had to rewatch it another time, and then procrastinated writing yet further. This team is hard to write about; this team frustrates endlessly.

Let's dig into this trainwreck.


Laurel Ivory – 6

The good. Ivory made good, quality saves on Kate Wiesner in the 15th minute, on Trinity Rodman in the 38th minute, and on an Ouleymata Sarr screamer in the 66th minute.

The bad. Ivory was slow to react and could've done better on Croix Bethune's opening goal. She shouldn't have been in a position to need to, but it was a savable shot and she's shown she can save those in the past.

The frustrating. I can't hold the penalty against her. She goes down to make the stop, Trinity Rodman steps on her to chase the rebound, and Ivory is charged with both the penalty and a yellow card. A far cry from the hair-trigger Protect Goalkeepers officiating we've seen going the other direction.

Going forward. Ivory makes good saves, but continues to be hung out to dry by her defense. No keeper is going to look great when the entire back line simply falls asleep and watches on big plays every single match.


Sofia Huerta – 5

The good. Six shot-creating actions and the dead ball service that led to Emeri Adames' first professional goal in the 95th minute. An excellent 69th (nice) minute service to Jordyn Huitema hit the woodwork. Once the Reign were down, Huerta reminded everyone how much she can add in the attack.

The bad. The Reign were down 3-0 in large part because Huerta got absolutely scorched in the 45th minute, allowing in a dangerous cross that the rest of her back line simply watched sail by and made no real effort to contest.

Going forward. If the Reign are going to make anything of this disaster of a season, they need a lot more Second Half Huerta, and a lot less First Half Huerta.

Alana Cook – 5

The good. Going 20 of 29 on downfield passes, and perfect on short passes, Alana Cook is finding her touch in possession.

The bad. It was defending-is-lava on the backbreaking third goal for the Spirit, as Cook was kind of just there, and Sarr nodded home the cross without the slightest bit of contest or defensive effort. The buildup on the first goal was quick and unfortunate, but Cook had an opportunity to slow things up by bodying up or even just fouling her attacker, and instead just let it develop.

Going forward. The Reign need Cook to play like the best-XI centerback of 2022 and first-half 2023, rather than the inconsistent post-injury mess of 2024.

Lauren Barnes – 4

The good. A 2nd minute pass unlocked a decent attack. 🤷

The bad. Pick a lane. Barnes' botched clearance on the opening goal gifted Croix Bethune an open look. Her disinterested defending on the third goal joined a teamwide effort to ensure they conceded in the most embarrassing possible fashion. Her three fouls were the most on the team, and none of them left the Reign in a better position. A step slow and a touch late all night, Barnes had a nightmare of a shift as the Spirit victimized the Reign back line repeatedly.

Going forward. It's hard to understand why Barnes is a written-in-pen 90 minute starter when her bad games have become so frequent, and when Shae Holmes has played so well in her limited opportunities.

Phoebe McClernon – 6 (off 85' for Lily Woodham)

The good. Six interceptions, two won tackles, and five recoveries made Phoebe the most active and effective defender for the Reign, and it wasn't accidental that the Spirit found far less joy attacking up her side. Her assist to Tziarra King in the 45'+5 for the Reign's first goal was excellent. A switch to Sofia Huerta in the 69th minute unlocked a Huitema chance.

The bad. While less complicit than the rest of the back line, it was a team effort to concede in the 45th minute. McClernon isn't the player you want taking an early chance off the volley.

Going forward. The Reign have a multitude of problems, some salvageable, some structural. McClernon really hasn't been one of them in either case.


Angharad James-Turner – 5 (off 61' for Jordyn Huitema)

The good. James-Turner went into two hard tackles and won both cleanly, as one of the only players providing even a bit of grit on the evening.

The bad. James-Turner touched the ball just 23 times and was a dire 9 of 18 passing, with at least two of her missed passes leading directly to transition opportunities. The Reign were uncharacteristically outworked and overrun in the midfield for most of the first hour, and Haz was a major culprit.

Going forward. When asked to shovel the garbage and supplement good play, Haz can shine. When asked to be the difference maker herself, she mostly isn't.

Jess Fishlock – 6 (POTM)

The good. Six shot-creating actions and the header won to assist Emeri Adames' 90'+6 goal. A 10th minute sequence with Tziarra King should've been good for a goal, but Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury unfortunately covered it. Two tackles won in the attacking third and 10 recoveries helped keep the Reign more alive than they had any right to be, as Fishlock, at least, still refuses to be beaten easily.

The bad. While she helped manufacture a bunch of chances, none of them came to anything until second half garbage time. She was a step too slow more than once, when a bit of the old Fishlock acceleration might've led to a chance.

Going forward. Fishlock is still an elite player at the NWSL level, but she no longer has the 90 minutes of tireless tire-scorching to create unexpected space and threaten goal out of nothing, and needs more support from other players.

Ji So-yun – 5 (off 85' for Olivia Athens)

The good. Ji So-yun is a ton of fun to watch in tight spaces even on off nights. In first half stoppage time, she found the ball from 10 yards out for a good chance, her rebound set up Veronica Latsko for another good chance, and then she picked up Latsko's rebound for a third good chance, all in the space of 40 seconds or so. The Reign didn't score (spoilers), but it was the sort of nose for goal we need from both players.

The bad. One progressive pass, two shot-creating actions, and 75 minutes of relative invisibility. Other than the flurry in 45'+2, Ji was consistently unable to make a positive impact on the match.

Going forward. While Ji clearly still has high-level skills, she and the Reign are too infrequently playing on the same page, and when she's disconnected, she tends to disappear. She and the team both need to find a way to fix that.

Olivia van der Jagt – 5 (off 46' for Nikki Stanton)

The good. Olivia van der Jagt went into two aerials and won them both.

The bad. On a day of midfield invisibility and ineffectiveness, Olo was happy to join the invisibility parade. Her 43rd minute yellow card foul was unnecessary, and the Reign defense was still half asleep two minutes later as the Spirit marched down the field and scored entirely uncontested.

Going forward. Van der Jagt is a really good bench option and a really good spot starter, but injuries and absences have forced the Reign to start her often, and have shown more of her limitations. Speaking of injuries, she also got beaten up a lot in the 45+ she played, and it would be nice if that happened less often.


Tziarra King – 6 (off 72' for Emeri Adames)

The good. With the Reign trailing 3-0 and halftime looming, King collected a Ji So-yun pass, quickly put the ball through the Spirit backline to an overlapping Phoebe McClernon, and absolutely deserved a hockey assist for the well-worked team effort that led to Veronica Latsko's goal. In the 10th minute, she beat her defender badly and delivered an excellent shot that Kingsbury unfortunately saved. A volley from the top of the area in the 27th minute nearly made something out of nothing.

The bad. Zee was less effective after the break. After being one of the few bright spots in the first half, with the Reign needing to build on a late goal to have a chance, she – like much of the team – disappeared.

Going forward. King remains inconsistent, but she's been showing more, and with the season unlikely to amount to anything for the squad, she probably has 13 or so more matches to prove she belongs next year.

Veronica Latsko – 6

The good. With the Reign trailing 3-0 and halftime looming, Latsko willed her head to McClernon's driven cross and left Aubrey Kingsbury no chance at a save. A few minutes earlier, she got on the rebound from Ji So-yun's blocked shot and delivered another strike, unfortunately also blocked. She created her own space with good running and good dribbling.

The bad. Like King, Latsko faded as the second half progressed, and after a missed 54th minute header, the Spirit successfully contained her, and she scarcely had another threatening touch.

Going forward. Latsko runs hard at maximum energy all the time, and as a 30-minute sub she can be a game breaker, but as a starter, she has a tendency to fade as the game progresses, and struggles to put in the pressure that makes her dangerous for a full ninety.


Nikki Stanton – 5 (on 46' for Olivia van der Jagt)

The good. Stanton came on to replace a battered and mostly ineffective Olo, and provided both more comfort in possession, going 14 for 18 passing, and more defensive bite, annihilating both dribblers who tested her while adding two interceptions and a blocked shot.

The bad. Stanton didn't do much to help tilt the field offensively, and trailing by two goals, the Reign needed a tilt. Also, ouch. The injury gods continue to be capricious and cruel to our players.

Going forward. Hopefully a quick and uncomplicated recovery. :(

Jordyn Huitema – 5 (on 61' for Angharad James-Turner)

The good. Being back on the pitch is good all on its own. Huitema also made an immediate impact in attacking possession, going into seven aerial duels and winning five, winning a 69th (nice) minute header and putting it off the post, getting her head on a 77th minute Ji So-yun cross.

The bad. The rust was evident, and Huitema had three badly misplayed passes. Also, while she got into good positions and hit the woodwork, she didn't score, and the Reign really needed her to.

Going forward. The Reign need Huitema to get back to game speed quickly, and even with the rust, her addition to the game immediately unlocked danger that had been entirely lacking for the first fifteen minutes of the second half.

Emeri Adames – 6 (on 72' for Tziarra King)

The good. Adames scored her first professional goal, and it was a beautiful laser of a volley, driving home Fishlock's headed assist from 13 yards out with her left foot.

The bad. Adames is audacious and tries shit, but she tried taking on her defender three times and failed every time, ending promising attacking movements. She has the tools to be a great dribbler, but needs to choose her moments better.

Going forward. Once again, Adames came on late and made a difference, even if the difference wasn't enough. If you're not high on what she's going to be with another year of experience, get high already. Adames is the real deal, and we should be giving her every opportunity we can.

Lily Woodham – N/A (on 85' for Phoebe McClernon)

The good. Lily "The Gunshow" Woodham came on late for McClernon and immediately went about winning the ball back high up the field, doing so twice in 10 minutes. She was steady on the ball and completed the passes she attempted.

The bad. Woodham wasn't really able to provide an attacking spark, and the Spirit successfully kept her out of position to even attempt a game-changing cross.

Going forward. Woodham plays the fullback role extremely aggressively, and that can be a real asset when the Reign set up to use it, or when chasing goals.

Olivia Athens – N/A (on 85' for Ji So-yun)

The good. Athens won two headers and helped the Reign keep possession as they desperately pushed for goals with the game fading away. She also replaced Ji So-yun, who had faded to complete irrelevance by the 85th minute.

The bad. Athens didn't help the Reign keep possession nearly as much as she needed to, coughing up the ball four times relatively unforced in the final five-plus minutes.

Going forward. Athens can add a ton of grit and cover for the Reign, but a 10 minute runout in a desperately game state does nothing to showcase her abilities.


Joshua Encarnacion – 5

The good. For the most part, center referee Joshua Encarnacion's calls made sense and he kept a very physical game, mostly, kind of, flowing. It was fine.

The bad. The penalty should've been a foul call on Trinity Rodman and a dead ball for the Reign. Veronica Latsko was brutalized repeatedly, but five whistled fouls against her wasn't enough to warrant a single yellow card for a Spirit side that took full advantage of the physical leeway they were given.

Going forward. This wasn't necessarily a great officiating performance, but fuck it, given how bad the standard has been this NWSL season, it wasn't that bad.

A Stray Thought

I honestly still think the Reign are better on paper than their record would indicate. I also think that they are playing as less than the sum of their parts, and that they've had some alarmingly bad injury and availability luck, and that they've been on the wrong end of some bafflingly bad calls. But also, halfway through the season, this is just who they are unless and until they prove otherwise. Good attacking play only coming in dire and impossible gamestates, inexplicable team-wide failures in big moments, and a general failure to get their best pieces into places to succeed do not make for a team about to scare anybody.

We need a real run of magic for this to be anything but a lost season. But hey, maybe Luany can come back from tearing it up on her loan and be a real sparkplug. Maybe Huitema and Quinn finally actually being available will help the Reign click together some results. Maybe the sale will finally, ever, be finalized and we'll actually have an operating budget. Maybe anything good will happen again, ever. Keep the faith, or whatevs.

The Reign next play away at the Kansas City Current, at 3:00 PST on June 9th. As of this writing, the game has just kicked off. Go Reign. Let's turn our season around here.