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Reign Blot Out Sky Blue in Fishlock's Return

Seattle's corazon returns and they respond with a nearly perfect performance.

Jane Gershovich

Two games after a questionable late penalty call robbed them of both a win against Sky Blue and Jess Fishlock's services for a match, and a week after the team looked listless and out of ideas against Chicago at home without her — Seattle faced Sky Blue with their Welsh engine on the field once again. This time, Fishlock had a goal and assist to earn player of the match and Seattle put the game out of reach of any refereeing shenanigans — handily beating New Jersey 3-0.

There were quite a few lineup changes. Fishlock started the match on the right wing, opposite Yanez, and behind Marritt Mathias at forward. Kim Little and Keelin Winters were joined in the midfield by Mariah Nogueira. Rachel Corsie earned her first start in center defense, shifting Kendall Fletcher to right back.

The Reign got off on the right foot immediately, holding possession in and around the Sky Blue box from the first minute. The pressure paid off early, when in the 8th minute Fishlock fed Winters 15 yards from Sky Blue's goal. Seattle's ferocious midfielder cut the ball back once to create space and buried the shot to give Seattle their first goal in nearly 120 minutes.

Even with the lead Seattle was the aggressor. Sky Blue had one good chance in the entire match, when forward Meg Morris got through the defense and put the ball past Haley Kopmeyer, but the shot went off the post. And 10 minutes later, Fishlock scored on, of all things, a towering header off of a corner.

Chances continued to flow for the Reign as Little got more time on the ball late in the match. Goal three came when she put a free kick into the wall in the 76th minute and the ref called a handball PK. Little predictably stepped up to take the kick and she shot a bullet into the roof of the net, leaving no chance for it to be saved.

By the final whistle, Seattle had outshot Sky Blue 19 to 4, putting 11 on goal to Sky Blue's 1. Much of the danger came from the team's flexibility and adaptability. Players flowed between positions and switched sides, constantly creating new and unpredictable angles of attack. Fishlock began the game on the right wing, but drifted to forward, central midfield, and defensive midfield as the situation dictated. Nogueira started in defensive mid, but switched comfortably back to the backline as Seattle's fullbacks moved forward.

Granted, it was a home match against the team at the bottom of the standings. But if Seattle can bring the same skill and creativity to every match, they'll be back in the Shield-contending position we all predicted before the season started.