What a difference a week makes. After opening the season to a 1-1 draw against Sky Blue FC, Seattle Reign FC put on an old fashioned hammering on the Houston Dash, winning 5-1 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
You'd think five goals in general is a rarity, but for the Reign FC, it marks the 4th straight year in which they've had a game claiming 5 goals. The win also keeps their record against the Dash perfect, going to 9-0 in all-time meetings.
It was a display that sure looked reminiscent of the vaunted Reign FC teams of 2014 and 2015, and even though Houston got one back in the final minutes of the game via defender Poliana, there was plenty for the ladies in blue to be happy about tonight.
"Much better — I think it's a lot closer to what we're trying to do," said Megan Rapinoe post match. She went on to talk about how the meshing of the new faces with the veterans came together much better tonight versus last weekend's draw. As for the celebration on her Goal of the Week nominee, "That's a little bit of an inside joke in the locker room. That one was for (Christine) Nairn."
Seattle's five goals started with co-captain Jess Fishlock in the 18th minute. A cross from Megan Rapinoe found Beverly Yanez in the box who then bodied it off to Christine Nairn. Nairn dumped it off to Fishlock coming up the right, and with her right foot she went for the bottom left and got past Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell for the first goal.
The second goal was a RPG — Rapinoe Powered Golazo — that surely will be a Goal of the Week nominee. After taking a wonderful ball over the top from Fishlock, Rapinoe just inside the 18-yard box went left foot and blasted it past Campbell. "I don't care who you had in goal, I think that's probably going to be in the back of the net," said Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum of Rapinoe's goal.
Jess Fishlock from midfield sends a ball to Pinoe and from distance she fires this sledgehammer RPG - Rapinoe Powered Goal. pic.twitter.com/2ydKO84dZA— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) April 23, 2017
Seattle's third goal was claimed by defender Kristen McNabb, and as cliche as it might be to say, you couldn't write a better script for a rookie than the first two starts McNabb has put in. "It was super exciting, I didn't expect that at all. Was happy to get the start again and I the goal was an added bonus," said McNabb of her first professional goal.
Granted, we are two games into the 2017 season, but the rookie is definitely making some amazing first impressions. "I think hearing all of the nice things it was so nice and I was so thankful. I just thought, second game, I just need to play my game and not worry about everything going on. I started out a little shaky but then I just calmed my nerves because it's still pretty nerve-wracking, but they give me confidence day in and day out," said McNabb about the praise she got for her debut last week and carrying it into a second straight start.
Two matches, yes, but with McNabb and later on the match, Katie Johnson, the rookies of the 2017 are showing quicker than maybe any of us anticipated that, yeah, they can hang with this team.
Here's another look at Kristen McNabb's first professional goal. pic.twitter.com/gTJ6Ft3mfw— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) April 23, 2017
In the second half, Reign would get a fourth goal courtesy of Beverly Yanez. Fishlock had the first attempt from distance, and while Jane Campbell got her hands on it, the rebound was fortuitous and there was Yanez to follow it up and smash it into the net.
Katie Johnson made her Reign FC debut tonight, replacing Yanez. In the 74th minute, she claimed her first professional goal. Rapinoe came down the flank and into the box with a cross that Campbell got her hands on but again forced a fortuitous rebound and Johnson was in the right place, right time to head it and claim Seattle's 5th goal.
And here is Katie Johnson putting five on it. pic.twitter.com/PxlSaAw2qn— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) April 23, 2017
McNabb and Johnson getting on the score sheet (yes two rookies scoring in a game is a first for the club), Harvey reflected on her history with the college draft. "Yeah, I'm really bad at the draft. And I think we often have been unlucky I think with the draft, where we haven't quite been able to get the performances in the first year off the college players we've seen. I think it's a testament to the drafts we've had that a lot of the players we've picked are still in the league,” Harvey said.
“The good thing currently is some of the players we picked in this year's draft, (they) are performing well now. That probably hasn't happened consistently since year one. We had a rough year two with Amanda Frisbie getting injured and multiple things have happened previous years, but I think we were really confident in the draft we had this year. And I think the girls are showing that and when Maddie (Bauer) is here full time, I think we'll show that if they keep progressing the way they are, these are the kids of the future."
Obviously we still have a long ways to go and it's still a great unknown what rookies like McNabb, Johnson and Bauer can turn into, but their first impressions are sure entertaining. We are starting to see bits of the potential they have, but it will take time. Same can be said about Houston Dash who looked impressive last week against the Chicago Red Stars, but tonight it was anything but.
Goalkeeper Jane Campbell, who came into the draft with an incredibly high ceiling and touted as a potential first choice goalkeeper for the US National Team, had about as rough of a rude awakening to the NWSL as you could imagine.
Dash head coach Randy Waldrum said, "It's hard because you know Jane's probably going to be the one taking some heat for this a little bit and I don't think it all falls on her shoulders. That's one of the things we talked to her about, put it behind you. We'll watch the video and break down some of the things that went wrong for her and get her back on track."
And it might be easy to put all the blame on the goalkeeper but forward Rachel Daly chalked it up to a bad day in the office for the entire group. "Definitely a bad day in the office. It's always tough to travel and always tough to play against Seattle. We did very well against Chicago but no week's are given."
And that is testament to the growth of the NWSL as the fifth season is underway. Teams are getting better year after year. Parity is deep and any club can claim a victory any week. Tonight was fun for the Reign FC and the 2,727 folks that were at Memorial Stadium. But while they will enjoy the 3 points tonight, they know they are still a long way from ushering a new era of Seattle Reign FC soccer.
That said, five goals with a couple of rookies claiming those goals is definitely a step in the right direction. The Seattle Reign FC are on the road next weekend, traveling to the Boston Breakers.