Seattle Reign FC are hungry for three points as the squad heads into its first of two home matches. On Saturday, May 13, Laura Harvey and team kick off at 1 p.m. against the Washington Spirit.
Both teams are coming off performances where they showed promising attacking moments. For the Spirit, that primarily came through Nigerian forward Francisca Ordega, who was named Player of the Week after being involved in all four of Washington’s goals. At the same time, both the Reign and the Spirit showed vulnerabilities on defense, giving up 2 goals and 3 goals, respectively.
What kind of match can Reign FC fans expect? We exchanged three questions with Caitlin Buckley from Black and Red United to get some answers.
Sounder at Heart: Washington has fallen to Seattle twice in the playoffs, and now we’ve acquired some fan favorites from your team. At this point, does Reign FC feel like one of the Spirit’s biggest rivals?
Black & Red United: I think some of Spirit fans’ ill will towards Seattle dissipated after the Spirit’s semifinal win last season but there’s definitely still some animosity. Losing two fan favorites to Seattle didn’t help. To be fair, Spirit fan favorites are now spread throughout the league but losing Christine Nairn and Diana Matheson to the same club certainly stung many Spirit supporters.
SaH: The Spirit got two promising young players from Seattle in two separate offseason trades: Havana Solaun and Arielle Ship. With the move, it was expected that both might get more playing time in Washington. What is your assessment of both players so far?
B&RU: Havana Solaun and Arielle Ship have both made an strong impact on the attack. Havana Solaun was key at jump starting the Spirit’s attack when Kristie Mewis and Katie Stengel were both out. Unfortunately for the Spirit, she was one of the few Spirit players creating anything up top in the game against the Houston Dash so the Dash worked hard at shutting her down. Ship has started in two games and is good at creating play from the flanks. Her footwork is fun to watch but she often gets herself stuck in corners.
SaH: After starting the season quiet, Francisca Ordega put in a Player of the Week performance against Sky Blue FC. Do you think she can replicate that performance more often this season?
B&RU: Ordega is certainly hard to predict. Defenders have a hard time predicting what she’ll do in the final third and her performances can vary a lot from game to game. Will she factor into four goals this Saturday? Probably not. But with Kristie Mewis back from injury, that should help Ordega up top.
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B&RU: The Reign lost several key players, namely Keelin Winters and Kim Little, this offseason. How have those departures affected the Reign this season?
SaH: Both players are completely irreplaceable. Keelin Winters shielded the backline so effectively, cutting off balls left and right, while Kim Little provided unparalleled attacking creativity and vision. While both are sorely missed — and the midfield is weaker as a result — what hasn’t changed is how Reign FC approach the match.
The key elements of Seattle’s game remain, which includes high pressure and a focus on defending from the front, controlling possession, and building play from the back. However, without a playmaker in the middle of the field, the team has found mixed results on the attacking end. Having a healthy Megan Rapinoe back helps. A lot. Her unpredictable play and ability to shoot or cross with little space make her tough for other teams to defend.
B&RU: Seattle has only won one of its first four games this season. What do the Reign need to improve on?
SaH: Consistency. The Reign have been brilliant at times and looked downright lost at others. That’s expected early in the season when players are working themselves back into a rhythm and are still figuring each other out. But now that we are a month into the season, those mental lapses cannot happen. The goals will come if the team sticks to what they are best at: moving the ball around, finding holes, and pressuring opponents.
But most importantly, if Seattle wants to push for the playoffs again, the squad is going to have to show up for all 90 minutes and play the kind of soccer they know how to play.
B&RU: Fill in the blank. The Reign will win on Saturday if _____
SaH: They press hard, especially in the midfield, and stay in the game for all 90 minutes.
All these questions will be answered and more this afternoon, when Seattle hosts the Spirit. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. PT at Memorial Stadium. Can’t make the game? Follow the action in our gamethread.