The Seattle Reign's first playoff match was in many ways a microcosm of their entire season. They came out strong, ended up surrendering the first goal, multiple handball penalties were called, Kim Little scored a penalty (twice), and in the end they scored the last goal to win the match and advance to the NWSL Final.
After being awarded the NWSL Shield pregame for the best regular season record, the Reign started the match brightly with a ton of possession, a ton of good crosses, and unfortunately not much end product after that. The final pass was missing every time or the offside flag was up, and despite the dominant buildup they could only force Spirit keeper Ashlyn Harris to make a few tough saves to keep the score level. In fact, the Spirit had some good chances of their own in the first half as Kerstin Gerefrekes had a couple of close-range shots and a bad backpass put Christine Nairn in on goal, but Solo was up to all of them.
In the second half Seattle began with most of the play again, but it was the Spirit who scored first, continuing the new well-established Reign tradition of surrendering the first goal. This time it was ex-Husky and ex-Sounder Veronica Perez who was left wide open at the top of the box after Diana Matheson cleared the defense away and cut the ball back to Perez for the easy shot.
Seattle didn't have their heads down after conceding first (as you'd expect after having done it so many times), and they got their chance just a few minutes later when an NWSL-special — a handball penalty in the box — was called. Kim Little confidently buried the shot, but it was called back for encroachment, so she confidently buried it again to tie the game.
Then things got really NWSL when Seattle was called for their own handball in the box just a few minutes later. With the risk looming of going down a goal again late in the match, Hope Solo came up with an epic save to deflect the ball off the crossbar and eventually out for a corner to clear the danger.
Then in the 83rd minute, Megan Rapinoe — who had labored all game with poorly weighted passes and shots — was free on a counter and rocketed a shot past Harris for the lead. And it's good it went in, because Sydney Leroux was standing wide open for a tap in. But that's life as a forward.
The Reign saw the game out comfortably for yet another comeback win, but their first ever playoff win. Now they move on to face FC Kansas City next Sunday at the old stomping grounds of Starfire Sports Complex with a championship trophy on the line.