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Reign's Second Loss Ends Regular Season; Spirit Next

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A second half Alex Morgan headed goal was enough to put the Thorns through into the playoffs. Now the Reign turn around quickly to focus on their first playoff run.

Mike Russell

The Seattle Reign suffered their second loss of the season in a tight 1-0 regular season finale in Portland. Though the Reign's only motivation was ruining a rival's season — as they'd had their playoff spot assured for a while — Laura Harvey didn't pull any punches, as she put a starting lineup out and continued to make attacking subs to put pressure on the Thorns. But Alex Morgan's headed goal off a corner kick in the second half was the difference that put the Thorns into the playoffs as the #3 seed.

Seattle's struggles were twofold. First — and most obvious — they were missing Jess Fishlock, who's in Wales on national team duty. As one of the best box to box midfielders in the league, she gives Seattle an edge all over the field, especially in a game as open as this one.

Second, the Reign struggled all game with weighting their passes on a slower pitch. The artificial turf at Memorial is one of the better surfaces in the league, but it still runs fast. The field at Providence plays more like grass with a slower ball and Seattle seemingly couldn't adjust, leaving passes on the ground short the entire match. That hurt them both in the offense, where they couldn't build plays, and in the defense when they led to dangerous turnovers. It was just such a turnover on an underweighted pass that led to the turnover that became the corner kick that resulted in Portland's goal.

Fortunately, Seattle's playoffs will be played entirely at home. With the Thorns earning the #3 seed, the Spirit get the #4 and a date in Memorial Stadium next weekend for Seattle's first ever playoff game. That leaves the Chicago Red Stars out of the playoffs, which if nothing else is a bit of karmic retribution for ending the Reign's undefeated season in July. And based on the results so far this season, it may be better for Seattle that the Red Stars — who were the only team the Reign didn't win the season series against — are done.

The result ends the season with an overall record of 16-2-6 and 54 points (2.25 ppg), with a +30 goal differential. That is an absurd accomplishment and I wouldn't be surprised if a season like that is never again seen in this league. It's all the more an accomplishment for being built on the ruins of a terribly disappointing inaugural season. But of course the Reign won't be satisfied with anything less than a title.