The Reign season countdown has reached 8 games. Tonight they visit Chicago, hoping to keep their season-long undefeated streak alive, stay in pole position for home field advantage in the playoffs, and keep momentum up through games that have lost much of their tension thanks to a 9 point lead in the standings.
Chicago hasn't won a match since May and is watching their playoff hopes drift dwindle, though the standings are still tight. For them, this is their second of a three game homestand and they need to pick up points. The key to their offense is US international Christen Press, who scored two late goals to steal a draw for them in Portland last week. She can combine with ex-Reign player Emily van Egmond and Lori Chalupny to create problems for Seattle's defense.
Amazingly, Seattle can actually mathematically clinch a playoff spot this weekend. We've known for a long time that they'd be making the playoffs under any reasonable scenario, but mathematical clinching is generally such a high bar that it doesn't happen until 3 or 4 games are left in the season, even for good teams. But a win tonight means the Reign are guaranteed to finish ahead of Chicago and Western New York, and if Portland loses their home game against #2 Kansas City tomorrow, they'd be guaranteed to finish behind Seattle as well (which would be a bit of a milestone of its own). A Washington loss against the Flash would also guarantee a lower finish than Seattle. So if Seattle wins and other games go their way, though could clinch not only the playoffs, but a guaranteed top 2 spot in the same weekend.
But that'll come on its own. Right now Seattle has to keep their level of play up and try to get Megan Rapinoe back on the field. After recovering from her long term foot injury enough to get a few minutes (and set up the game winner) versus New York, she pulled her hamstring in training and is now back to Out on the injury report. At this point the goal has to be to get her into enough games before the playoffs that she's fully in sync with her teammates when the elimination games come.
Otherwise, the team is rolling. Kim Little has quieted as an offensive force, but Naho Kawasumi has picked up the slack. And some day Sydney Leroux is going to come unstuck and score multiple goals in a game.