There's something about the Chicago Red Stars that gives Seattle nightmares. The team that delivered the Reign their first loss of the season last year delivered another one today in Chicago. The Reign's two corner kick goals were buried under the brilliance of Christen Press, who assisted one goal and scored two — the second in injury time to seal the win for Chicago.
In biting wind the first half was a mess, with neither team able to sustain any kind of possession. Chicago's high, aggressive press kept the Reign from building any attack and the Red Stars' attack was made mostly of long hopeful balls to forwards Press and Jen Hoy.
But despite the conditions and ragged play, the two best defenses in the league from last season somehow contrived to surrender four goals. The first came in the 30th minute off of a brilliant sequence from Bev Yanez. First she hounded a Chicago defender into conceding an unnecessary corner. And on the ensuing Megan Rapinoe delivery Yanez was lurking at the far post to head the ball in for a 1-0 lead.
That lead was short-lived. A couple of minutes later the ball pinballed through the midfield and the final bounce put Press through onto goal. She took a quick shot from outside the box before Hope Solo could get set and it beat the Reign's keeper to tie the match.
Then a few minutes later a seemingly innocuous chance turned fatal when Press brought the ball up the sideline and knifed in a perfect pass to Hoy, who seemed to be well covered by Kendall Fletcher and Solo but got goal-side of Fletcher to redirect it in for a 2-1 lead. Then Fletcher made amends soon afterward when she finished a Kim Little cross off of another corner to send the sides in tied 2-2.
That score held through almost entire the second half. Perversely, it was late in the second when Seattle started creating more chances that the Red Stars won the game. Another long ball was taken down by Press in stride and she absolutely blew by the helpless Lauren Barnes and rocketed another shot past Solo for the winning goal with just a minute left to play.
So none of the goals came from the kind of build-up that the Reign usually employ, but the result shows that quality build-up doesn't matter much when you can hit on set pieces or have the frontline speed that the Red Stars can deploy.
They also exploited a pretty forgettable night for Solo, who not only surrendered the three goals but made some risky decisions in coming out early for through balls that created other dangerous chances for Chicago.
If there's any consolation it's that the Reign don't have to travel to Chicago again this regular season. The Reign have never won in the Windy City, going 0-3-1 in their three years. And as always, this loss will give Laura Harvey plenty to work on heading into the team's next match &mdash a Thursday visit to Kansas City, the team that beat them in the final last season.