For the first two-thirds of Seattle Reign FC’s road match against the Portland Thorns, Seattle was the better team — dominating Portland’s midfield, dictating the play, and easily leading on shots. The tone shifted late in the match, however, and a late Allie Long goal sealed a 2-2 draw for the Cascadia rivals.
Seattle’s lineup sheet suggested that the team would play in a 3-4-3 formation for the first time, with Lauren Barnes, Rachel Corsie, and Rebekah Stott holding down the back line, and Carson Pickett and Merritt Mathias tasked as wingbacks.
But it was clear from the beginning that Laura Harvey fooled us all. Seattle rolled out its traditional 4-3-3 from kickoff, with Mathias moving to her previous role up top and being asked to pressure Portland’s somewhat shaky defense. Bev Yanez dropped into the midfield due to Christine Nairn’s absence, where she was tasked with helping pressure Portland into mistakes. The strategy worked early and often for the Reign.
In fact, it was some early defensive pressure that put Seattle up 1-0 in just the first minute of the match. Jess Fishlock blocked a pass from Lindsay Horan at the top of the box, took one touch to her right, and fired a deadly shot into the upper far-post corner.
After that, momentum was in Seattle’s favor — and the team didn’t ease up on the pressure throughout the first half. While an unfortunate Fishlock own goal equalized the match in the 37th minute, Mathias put the Reign ahead just two minutes later after some great interchange between Stott and Naho Kawasumi. Reign FC left the half out-shooting Portland 8-1 and leading by a goal.
That momentum continued into the second half, though Seattle couldn’t create as many chances. In part, this was due to Portland responding to Seattle’s early pressure with some aggressive play of their own. The Thorns earned two back-to-back fouls just a minute into the second half.
Unfortunately for both teams, referee Christina Unkel didn’t call the match tight enough, and a combination of rivalry energy and aggressive play reached a boiling point around the 70th minute. After that, much of the game was disrupted by hard tackles, fouls, and poor passing and possession. Both teams were chasing the ball, and Seattle had lost its hold on the match.
However, it felt like Reign FC was doing just enough to maintain the lead. They were forcing Portland to make plays from the wings, rather than up the middle of the field, and while players like Hayley Raso had their chances, they often failed to hold the ball to allow teammates to get into the box — and a number of Portland’s 21 crosses were easily managed by Seattle.
That is, until a poor clearance by Corsie went right to Meghan Klingenberg at the top of the box. Her cross found Allie Long’s head, and in the 82nd minute the scoreline would be even. The Thorns nearly scored again in the final minutes of the match, but Christine Sinclair’s far-post shot was blocked near the line by substitute Lindsay Elston.
In the end, it is tough to get points at Providence Park, and it is certainly better to earn one point over no points. Still, Seattle will need to go into next week’s match — at home against the Washington Spirit — with the ability to play all 90 minutes at the same level of intensity the maintained at the start of this game. That match takes place Saturday, May 13 at 1 p.m. PT, and Reign FC could really use the three points.