In their final match of the preseason, the Seattle Reign hosted the Washington Huskies on a perfect, sunny evening at Memorial Stadium in front of 3,633 supporters. With Seattle's big stars away on international duty, it was new Dutch signing Manon Melis who took over the spotlight, scoring a brace and assisting a third goal in the 4-1 win.
There were a few lineup shifts to cover for the gaps left by Hope Solo, Jess Fishlock, Kim Little, and Rachel Corsie. The always excellent Haley Kopmeyer started in goal. Lauren Barnes moved back to center defense and first round draft pick Carson Pickett started at left back. ex-UW (and ex-Sounders Women) player Lindsey Elston, who's on trial with the Reign, started at holding midfield alongside Keelin Winters. And Bev Yanez dropped into the attacking midfield, doing an excellent Kim Little impression, while Melis, Merritt Mathias, and Havana Solaun ran the attack.
The game started off with the Reign on the front foot with Mathias sending a dangerous cross into the UW box 10 seconds after the opening kickoff. In the first five minutes it looked like the college team would hang back and pack the defense, but after early skittishness they pushed out and created an open game. They had a number of dangerous chances in the game, including forcing Kopmeyer into a diving save in the 7th minute on a free kick, and sending a long shot just inches wide of the far post later in the first half.
But it was the Reign, and particularly Melis, who were finding the back of the net. She opened the scoring when in the 18th minute Yanez (edit: actually, this was Winters) sent an inch perfect 25 yard through-ball into the box and the Dutch winger poked it underneath the UW keeper.
Then in the 27th she returned the favor when she got behind the defense on the right wing and sent in a low hard cross for Yanez to redirect into net for the 2-0 lead. And in first half injury time, Pickett sent in a long looping cross that the keeper came out for but missed, leaving Melis an open net for her brace.
Just after the half Seattle earned a PK when a loose, rattling ball in the UW box forced the defenders into some overly physical defending. Mathias finished confidently for the 4 goal lead.
Just a minute later, Mathias paid the price when a hard tackle sent her to the turf in serious pain. She made it to the sideline under her own power but wouldn't return to the game. No word yet on her status, but it's hard not to think about the preseason match against UW last year, in which Solaun's ankle was broken, ending her rookie season before it began.
The Huskies would pick up a consolation goal in the 85th minute when some preseason miscommunication between Kopmeyer and right back Elli Reed let a chance through, but it was well too late for UW to mount a serious challenge.
Other than the injury to Mathias and the goal allowed, the only black mark in the game was Pickett's tendency to give the ball up in dangerous positions. She had multiple turnovers in her own end under pressure, and will have to pick up her pace of play as a pro.
The bright spots were all over the field. Melis dominated the right wing with pace and technique. Yanez' distribution was fantastic, from a much deeper position than she's used to playing for Seattle. The central defense of Fletcher and Barnes was impeccable. Elston was a two-way terror in a game in which she was fighting for a roster spot.
Now the team looks to the regular season opener next Sunday at home against Sky Blue. Given that they drew almost a thousand more supporters to a friendly than they did to last season's opener, they should be expecting good things both on and off the field.