One of the hallmarks of the Reign's now 13-game undefeated streak is their ability to come back from early deficits. In 4 of the last 5 matches, Seattle had surrendered the first goal but come back to draw or win. That resilience was on display once again today, as they came back from a 1-0 deficit to beat the Western New York Flash 2-1 on the road.
The Flash's trademark physicality was on display once again this match. They finished the match with 14 fouls (to Seattle's 4) and picked up 4 yellow cards (to Seattle's 0). That rough play combined with a midfield compacted by a high line made for a grinder of a first half, with neither team getting many good looks. Western New York had the run of play and the better chances, though none were great. Seattle was limited largely to long Sydney Leroux shots and offside calls on attempted attacks on the Flash's high line.
In the second half, the game opened up substantially as the Flash pushed for a winner and stretched out the midfield. And Seattle subbed back in usual right back starter Elli Reed and moved Stephanie Cox backed to left back, which improved the flank play.
Still, it was the Flash getting the better of the attacks. Early in the half they had two dangerous attacks on a stretched Reign defensive line that had to be turned away by last ditch slide tackles. The second of those went out for a corner, and on the corner Samantha Kerr lost her mark from Bev Goebel and had a wide open header to give the Flash a 1 goal lead and resign the Reign to giving up the first goal in 5 of the last 6 matches.
The Flash looked to be able to comfortably hold the lead, as Seattle still couldn't muster dangerous chance. But the Reign attack improved when Mariah Nogueira was subbed in for Goebel, pushing Jess Fishlock up to the CAM role and Kim Little out to the wing. That's a move Seattle has made in the past when they needed quick offense, and it worked again this time.
The equalizer came when the Flash's penchant for fouling came back to bite them. In the 83rd, Carly Lloyd fouled Little 30 yards out from goal. The Scotland international took the free kick herself and she dropped it perfectly over the defense and onto the far post, where it was bundled into the net. It took a second to figure out who had scored, since as many as four Reign players were in position to finish, but eventually we figured out it was defender Kate Deines.
A draw would have been a good achievement here, but a moment of individual brilliance from Leroux — who had struggled for most of the match — put Seattle over the top. In the 90th minute, Fishlock dropped a beautiful chipped pass into the box for Leroux to run onto. Keeper Lydia Williams rushed out to challenge and Leroux popped a perfect sombrero pass over the keeper to herself. The US international rounded the keeper and tapped in the easy go-ahead goal thanks a to a highlight-reel buildup.
The win puts the Reign a ridiculous 8 points clear of Kansas City, who has 2 more games played than Seattle. And they're 15 points clear of the teams tied for third. Their 35 points is only 3 shy of the 38 points that won the league last season. And they've done all this without Megan Rapinoe, who's slowly being upgraded on the injury list.
Next Seattle comes home to face Sky Blue on Saturday, when we hope to hear good news about both Rapinoe's injury and Hope Solo's legal (and personal) troubles.