The Seattle Reign leave New Jersey with a road point in hand, thanks to a scoreless draw this afternoon against Sky Blue. Despite the lack of goals, there was no lack of chances. Instead bad luck, hasty finishing, and world-class defending by the ageless Christie Rampone conspired to turn away great opportunities.
Though the run of play largely went to Seattle all match, it was Sky Blue who had the first chance at a goal, when in the 12th minute Taylor Lytle found herself in an acre of space at the top of the box and curled a shot over Hope Solo but straight into the crossbar.
Just five minutes later it was the Reign's turn to test the woodwork, when a beautiful through-ball by Lauren Barnes put Kim Little clean behind the defense. She sent in a low, hard cross to the onrushing Jess Fishlock, who with the goalmouth yawning lifted her shot to deflect off the bottom of the crossbar and out.
The game then settled into the Reign holding the lion's share of possession, but Sky Blue countering effectively on their left. Two defensive themes held through out the match: Seattle's right flank was their defensive Achilles' heel (as it has been for years), and Rampone proved herself one of the few defenders in the league capable of shutting down Little.
Sky Blue's next best chance came in the 54th minute when right back Elli Reed was turned inside out by the speedy Leah Galton, who had a clear shot on goal. Solo made a diving save and the ball fell to an open Natasha Kai 6 yards out, but she managed to sky her follow-up over the bar.
Then in the 63rd, Little found herself in the Sky Blue box ready to make one of her trademark mazy runs through a forest defenders. But this forest included Rampone, who managed to deflect the final shot wide of goal.
Those were the best chances, but not the last, as Seattle's subs — particularly Kirsten Dallstream — created more opportunities. But in the end none got past Rampone or keeper Caroline Stanley and the Reign settled for a point.
The shutout of Seattle continued a theme of offensive struggles this season. The team that led the league goal-scoring race by a mile over the last two seasons is now nearly at the midway point with only one multigoal game all season, in a 3-0 road win over the hapless Boston Breakers. Every other match has been a single goal scored or a shutout.
It's clear the team is direly missing the contributions of Megan Rapinoe, and will need her return and the addition of Naho Kawasumi to help the offensive find its way.
Next up the team travels to Kansas City to face the defending champions, who are facing their own new reality and sit second to the bottom of the league.