Round one of Cascadia Week went to the visiting Seattle Reign, thanks to one Messi-esque slaloming run from reigning league MVP Kim Little and one full extension save from Seattle keeper Haley Kopmeyer.
The Little goal was the highlight of a compact, cagey game that saw few good chances. The Thorns, perhaps still trying to develop familiarity after a raft of post-World Cup changes, held possession well enough in midfield but couldn't turn it into clear shots. And Seattle worked the ball into the box well, but couldn't find a finishing touch. Megan Rapinoe's re-introduction to the left wing was not revelatory, but that may have had as much to do with the defense of Rachel van Hollebeke, who was probably the Thorns' best player on the night.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 59th minute, when Little took the ball in space in the attacking midfield and dribbled through the Portland defense's tackles like the ball was glued to her foot before settling the ball casually past Michelle Betos for the go-ahead goal.
️ ️ ️ ️ Too smooth, too much class, too brilliant! Love @kimlittle16. pic.twitter.com/Z6AwftcY1b— Womens Football Comp (@Jigsawwill) July 23, 2015
That was followed by a flurry of Thorns set pieces as they pressured Seattle into conceding multiple corners, but only one header forced Kopmeyer into a tough save, and she took that confidently.
While you wait for the stream to hopefully come back up, enjoy a Christine Sinclair header and @hkopmeyer save. #NWSL pic.twitter.com/jtqchjVwyl— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) July 23, 2015
Coach Harvey deployed defensive-minded subs in the late minutes and the Reign were able to see out the win with most of the possession.
For those who weren't among the record 21,144 fans in attendance, the most memorable aspect of the night other than Little's goal will be the shoddy performance of Fox's online streaming app. It was the first match of the new league broadcast deal and a showcase for the Fox Sports Go service, but all it showcased was technical problems, as the stream was marred by stuttering and graininess when it was working at all. It's fair to say that relationship didn't start out on the right foot.
The win keeps Seattle just a point back of Chicago in the race for the Shield. And the loss leaves Portland in 7th place, two points off of last and five behind the last playoff spot. That puts them in even more desperate circumstances heading north for the quick rematch on Sunday at Memorial Stadium.