The temperature at kickoff was in the 90s and the heat index in the 100s. The complete opposite of ideal, but Seattle Reign FC made it work, securing a 2-0 victory against the Houston Dash down in BBVA Compass Stadium. It was the team's first clean sheet and win on the road for the season.
Seattle's goals came from an own goal by Houston's Cari Roccaro and Seattle's Katie Johnson. In fact, it was Johnson who was the star of the Reign FC attack after she came on in the 24th minute when Beverly Yanez took a cleat to her right knee and sustained what sideline reporter Kate Markgraf said was a "two-inch laceration." She also reported that Yanez got stitches for it. After the match, Yanez tweeted that she will be okay.
10 stitches will b fine:) SO happy for the 3 points!Difficult conditions, but everyone worked hard. Hope you feel better soon @RachelDaly3.— Beverly(Goebel)Yanez (@beverlygoebel) May 27, 2017
Back to Johnson, whose appearances so far this season coming off the bench have resulted in, basically, things happening. Her speed and fresh energy have often been exploiting tired legs in the second half of games, and she continued that today. Six minutes after she came on, Johnson set up Megan Rapinoe with a shot that deflected off Dash defender Cari Roccaro for the aforementioned opening goal in the 30th minute.
Johnson got involved again with Seattle's second goal, this time taking a pass from Nahomi Kawasumi and pulling off a spin move and lofting the ball past Dash goalkeeper Lydia Williams in the 64th minute.
On the defensive side, Seattle kept their composure despite the heat-induced sluggishness, and goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer made some incredible saves.
After their draw last week against the Orlando Pride, Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey talked about how the team needed to remember how to win games 1-0. Staying composed defensively was huge today, and full credit to Kopmeyer and the defensive unit as they stayed intact—especially in the closing minutes of the match.
Houston had a great deal of second chance attempts and probably would have found the back of the net if Kopmeyer did not come up huge with key saves, like this one in the 93rd minute.
Kopmeyer earned that clean sheet today.
While the Reign FC can be proud of the solid performance today—resulting in their first clean sheet and win on the road of the season—the result is an afterthought, as in the final seconds of the match, Houston's Rachel Daly collapsed on the field, likely due to heat exhaustion.
Quick response from players from both teams and medical staff got Daly loaded onto a stretcher as one of the final images from the national TV broadcast. An update from the Dash indicates she will be okay, so here's to nothing but the best and hope Rachel has a speedy and proper recovery.
The extreme heat was something we mentioned at the start of the game—with a concern for player safety, despite water breaks being scheduled. Those concerns became reality after Daly went down, and players from both sides immediately sounded off on social media as soon as the match ended and they got into the cooler comforts of the locker room.
It will be interesting to see how the NWSL and Lifetime (who has an equity stake in the league) will respond to the rightful lambasting they're getting from fans, media, and players about scheduling a match in late May in Houston, with player health put at risk because of extreme weather.
More from Seattle coach Laura Harvey commenting on the extreme heat: pic.twitter.com/kYJlColB5U— Corey Roepken (@RipSports) May 27, 2017
Its ridiculous for any team to play in such conditions like today. As players we can't perform at our best in 93°F & 85% humidity weather— Janine Van Wyk (@Janinevanwyk5) May 27, 2017
The league issued the follow statement regarding today’s match and the unfortunate, yet very preventable, incident involving Daly.
NWSL Statement on Houston Dash vs. Seattle Reign FC Match: pic.twitter.com/sM2Rfdt6k5— NWSL (@NWSL) May 27, 2017
Reign FC are on the road again next weekend against the Chicago Red Stars. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 12 PM PST.