Megan Rapinoe missed nearly the entire 2014 season with a nagging foot injury. She wasted no time making her mark in the 2015 season with three goals and an assist in a dominating home opener for Seattle. The Reign opened with 10 of the 11 starters from last year, with Merritt Mathias for Naho Kawasumi the only change. No doubt that stability also helped lift the Reign to a win in their first match of the season.
The game opened with some flutters as early Flash pressure took the Reign out of their game for the first 10 minutes or so. That's also when New York introduced the game plan they'd rely on all match as they repeatedly launched 40 yard balls to ex-Reign player Sydney Leroux posted up alone in the attack. The Seattle defense had little trouble keeping Leroux away from being goal dangerous, which largely neutered the Flash attack. And as the game wore on they warmed into possession.
The first Reign goal of the season came in the 25th minute, when a long forward ball from Rapinoe found a flying Fishlock for a volleyed finish into the bottom corner. It was almost a carbon copy of the memorable volley from last season against Western New York that's now featured on a Ride of the Valkyries shirt. That was followed closely be a (fairly soft) penalty call against New York, which Kim Little stepped up for, just as she did so many times last season. But stunningly she missed this one, keeping New York in the game, and we went to halftime up 1-0.
The second half adjustments for Seattle looked correct, because they dominated the next 45 minutes. Seattle's second goal came just after halftime when Little burst through a wide open midfield to feed Bev Yanez, who rocketed a low hard shot past Sabrina D'Angelo to double the lead. The Flash then made things interesting in the 68th when some nice buildup on the left wing resulted in a low hard cross and a tap-in goal for Jordan Angeli.
But the Reign responded quickly and emphatically. Two minutes later a high, looping cross from Mathias found Megan Rapinoe, who headed it in for a 3-1 lead. Then 4 minutes later the US international scored again on a dirty scramble in the box that resulted in a bunch of Seattle chances. Rapinoe had the telling one when she banked a shot off a Flash defender for a 4-1 lead. Then in the 86th she ran onto a perfect through ball from Fishlock for her third and an overwhelming 5-1 lead, which Seattle comfortably saw out.
Leroux's hoped-for revenge for her sudden trade to New York didn't manifest. Instead, Seattle (after a ragged first 10 minutes) showed that they remain the class of the league. And that a full season of Rapinoe (minus her national team responsibilities) could more than make up for the loss of Kawasumi in the offseason. Which should be terrifying to the rest of the league.