After taking last week off for the FIFA international break, Seattle Reign FC (3-2-3) returns to NWSL action this weekend in a road match against FC Kansas City (3-3-2). The game kicks off at 5:00 PM PT on Saturday, June 17, and will stream on go90.
It’s the first meeting between the two squads in 2017, and the game will conclude Seattle’s three-match road trip that also took them to Houston and Chicago. Reign FC players accumulated some well-earned airline miles in June.
Kansas City is coming off a road loss of its own after falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage. It was KC’s fourth time getting shut out this season. At home, the Blues are much more dangerous, however, boasting a 2-0-2 record at Children’s Mercy Victory Field this season.
Reign FC is 3-5-3 against FC Kansas City and has never defeated them on the road. Let’s forget those two heartbreaking NWSL championship matches, shall we? Despite the tough challenges in the past against Vlatko Andonovski’s side, one thing is certain: When Seattle and Kansas City face each other, it is often a fierce, close battle.
What to Watch
As Laura Harvey said in anticipation of Saturday’s game, “There’s always great games between us and Kansas. They’re an opposition that I have the utmost respect for. We suit each other in the way that we try and play, so I think it will be a great game.”
Seattle and KC play a very similar style of soccer — focused on possession, technical play, off-the-ball movement, and building from the back. Matches between the two teams are typically very close. In fact, the teams met two times last year, playing to a 0-0 draw in Kansas City and to a 1-0 Seattle win at Memorial Stadium thanks to some Kim Little brilliance.
KC Defense: For the last four seasons, the Blues have had arguably the best and most consistent defense in the NWSL. That is in large part due to the leadership of Becky Sauerbrunn, who rarely makes mistakes and is a strong organizer along the backline. It’s tough — but not impossible — to find a lot of shots.
So how can Seattle break through? This season, 71 percent of the goals KC conceded came in the second half. If Reign FC can continue to move the ball quickly throughout the midfield — and focus on keeping possession — they should be able to wear the Blues down and find those small pockets of space.
This will be a much bigger challenge without Rumi Utsugi, who strained her left calf while training with Japan during the international break. Utsugi has been one of the team’s most important players this season. She has an 85 percent pass completion rate, averages about 57 passes per game, and provides significant defensive cover.
While KC defends well as a unit, they are prone to some mistakes. Seattle should try to get the ball early to Naho Kawasumi on the right to test rookie left back Christina Gibbons. The Duke graduate has an incredibly bright future and has been a solid defender this season, but she has also shown that she’s still adjusting to the quick speed of play in the league.
KC Offense: Reign FC goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer has been busy lately, as Seattle has struggled to contain speedy attackers. The good news heading into Saturday is that Kansas City has by far the fewest cross attempts in the league (90). The team likes to build its play either over the top or through the midfield. This should give Seattle time to bring numbers back to defend.
Sydney Leroux will certainly be looking to score against her former team. She is two games removed from earning a brace and NWSL Player of the Week honors. But Leroux also relies heavily on the service of her teammates. If Seattle closes down on wing players Brittany Ratcliffe and Shea Groom quickly — and doesn’t succumb to their consistent, high pressure — it is going to be hard for Leroux to get quality chances.
Because they are a team struggling to find goals, Kansas City has a hard time coming from behind in matches. If Laura Harvey’s squad can defend well from front to back, keep possession, and get a goal first, the game should be Seattle’s to win.
FCKC: 3-3-2 with seven goals scored and seven conceded.
Top Scorer: Sydney Leroux (3) | Top Assist Leader: Shea Groom (2)
Seattle: 3-2-3 with 17 goals scored and 11 conceded.
Top Scorer: Megan Rapinoe (4) | Top Assist Leader: Naho Kawasumi (5)
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, June 17, 5:00 PM PT
Venue: Children’s Mercy Victory Field, Kansas City, Missouri
Streaming: go90 app (iOS/Android); go90.com
Streaming (International): NWSL app (iOS); NWSLSoccer.com
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