For the second week in a row, Seattle Reign FC had an away match at midday on a hot, muggy day, this time falling to the Chicago Red Stars 1-0 in a game that Chicago dominated for most of the match. The Reign attempted to compensate for the heat and travel burden by trying a new approach—taking a day of rest in Seattle and flying to Chicago only the day before the match—but the combination of travel, fatigue, and a Red Stars team on a hot streak combined to sink Seattle’s fortunes in a game that could have been much worse than the score line suggests, if not for the remarkable efforts of Haley Kopmeyer.
Seattle made one change going into this match, starting Katie Johnson up top in place of the injured Beverly Yanez. This was essentially the same 4-3-3 attacking / 4-5-1 defensive formation and personnel they used for the majority of last week’s game in Houston, but Chicago’s midfield was much more adept at shutting down the passing lanes Seattle likes to use when building possession out of the back and prevented Seattle from having many dangerous attacking opportunities, particularly as the game progressed and Seattle became more fatigued.
The entire team seemed to be a step slow and tired early in the match, which exacerbated the difficulties they were having with building attacks through any method except long balls and direct play. Laura Harvey eventually adjusted by pulling off a forward and inserting an extra defensive mid in an effort to gain control of the midfield, but by the time the change occurred the rest of the team was too fatigued to effectively take advantage of the shift.
The international break this weekend should hopefully give everyone an opportunity to rest and recuperate before what looks like it might be yet another very hot and sunny mid-afternoon match in Kansas City next week.
Haley Kopmeyer (8, POTM) – Teams should not expect their keepers to make seven saves on a weekly basis and still be in the running for a playoff spot. Yet once again Haley Kopmeyer stood on her head and made a number of highlight reel saves and did everything in her power to salvage something from a game where most of her teammates were having sub-par performances. Her diving deflection of Sofia Huerta’s knuckling, long shot in the 28th minute was nominated for save of the week, and she came up big again near the end of the half with a stop on a Christen Press shot in the 43rd minute.
The Chicago barrage continued into the second half. She once again faced a powerful shot from distance in the 48th minute, this time from Danielle Colaprico. She again denied Press in the 67th minute, and had some good fortune as the ensuing rebound fell straight to Huerta but her shot rang off the post.
Kopmeyer shared a sliver of responsibility for the Red Stars goal because the attack started off her poor clearance which fell straight to Julie Ertz in the midfield, but the attack took long enough to develop that Seattle’s defense should have better tracked the runs of Huerta and Press. In the 72nd minute there was also a flashback to the unforced error that led to Orlando’s goal a few weeks ago: Kopmeyer once again needlessly played a goal kick short to Jess Fishlock as an opponent was quickly closing her down, but fortuitously Fishlock touched the ball inside the box this time and the kick had to be retaken.
Carson Pickett (6) – Pickett had the best day of the Reign defenders, although much of that can be attributed to Chicago preferring to do most of their attacking up the opposite side of the field. Early in the game she got caught up field as Julie Ertz moved into the corner and put in a nice cross, but after that Pickett did well to keep her side under control and limit attacking opportunities from developing on her flank. As usual, her primary weaknesses related to some poor passes and through balls, things that will improve as she continues to gain more experience and works with a regular midfield partner.
Rachel Corsie (4) – Aside from Pickett, the Reign back line had a tough day on Sunday, with Red Stars attackers regularly finding space out wide and between defenders on well-timed runs and most of the defense scrambling to react a step too late. In Corsie’s case, this was exemplified by Sofia Huerta burning her several times for scoring opportunities, including a juke and shot in the 28th minute, the assist on the Red Stars goal in the 49th minute, and another break to the end line and cross in the 56th minute that Kopmeyer smothered.
Clearances were also a problem, in part because the Reign midfield struggled to get possession and have any control over the middle of the park. In particular, Corsie had a headed clearance in the 43rd minute that went straight to several Chicago midfielders, and the ball was very quickly chipped back over Corsie’s head and onto the foot of Press for a shot.
Corsie also had a surprisingly low number of touches and passes in this game, with nearly a third fewer passes than is typical for her in a full match. Some of this can be explained by Seattle becoming more direct as the game progressed and unsuccessfully devolving to Route 1 ball in an effort to bypass the midfield, but curiously her partners had more typical games in that regard.
Lauren Barnes (5) – Along with most of her teammates, Barnes had a rare off-day, and regularly got beat on through balls that led to good Chicago opportunities. She had a few of her usual bright moments, blocking and clearing a dangerous shot in the 9th minute and cleaning up messes left by her teammates, but as the game progressed and she became more fatigued, her errors grew.
She was caught needlessly dribbling in the backfield in the 55th minute, and about 10 minutes later while passing the ball around in the back under no pressure, she abruptly hit a wild long pass in the general direction of Rebekah Stott, but at least 10 yards behind her and directly out of bounds. That pass typified the day for Seattle—punctuated bouts of urgency mixed with a lot of imprecision. Barnes and the entire Reign defense looked gassed by the end and showed little desire to press the game, allowing Chicago attackers to dribble into the final third unchallenged several times in the waning minutes.
Rebekah Stott (3) – Stott had her roughest performance as a starter, and Chicago identified it early and exploited it often. Depending on her positioning, Red Stars attackers kept finding huge gaps either between Stott and Corsie, or between Stott and the sideline, and would push balls into those spaces for dangerous crosses. This became even more of an issue after the first ten minutes, when Megan Rapinoe and Naho Kawasumi swapped sides and Stott was partnered with the unfamiliar Rapinoe for the remainder of the game and received far less defensive support.
Several times, Stott tried to step up to challenge Chicago possession, only to clatter into the player she was meant to challenge just as they pushed the ball to a second runner who was streaking behind her, leaving her completely out of position and often on the ground. The Red Stars also tended to double team her, including a give-and-go sequence with Casey Short and Sofia Huerta in the 59th minute that quickly put Huerta on the ball a dozen yards behind her.
In the 70th minute, Danielle Colaprico easily outraced her to a ball near the corner and put in a good cross, and after it Stott looked up to the heavens with a frustrated wince. This was sequence replicated nearly identically five minutes later.
Nothing Stott did in this game has me feeling particularly worried for her long-term viability as Seattle’s right back, particularly if Naho returns to her side of the field to provide support, but the sheer number of simple mistakes is concerning and suggests she might need a game or two of rest when Seattle faces fixture congestion and midweek matches later this summer.
Rumi Utsugi (6) – If you only looked at the statistics, Utsugi had a spectacular game, with season highs both for touches and passes (68). However, most of that was in her own defensive third serving as an additional passing option while the Reign tried to probe for cracks in the stout Red Stars midfield. She had one good scoring opportunity shortly after halftime, when she made a late run into the box and got on the end of a Naho Kawasumi cross, but the shot went straight at Alyssa Naeher. Overall, Utsugi’s game was decent and she didn’t have any notable problems, but the support around her wasn’t enough for her to elevate it beyond that.
Jess Fishlock (6) – Fishlock was hot and cold in this game, putting in some nice through balls early in the game and nearly scoring off a nice backheel flick of a Rapinoe corner kick in the 24th minute, but often tried to do too much and force the game as things went south in the second half. She had a huge deflection of a Red Stars scoring opportunity in the 71st minute, and a minute later prevented another bad goal kick error by touching the ball inside the 18 yard box just as Christen Press closed down on her, forcing a re-kick. Like Utsugi she didn’t have many notable negatives, but they couldn’t do enough on their own to fix the sieve that was the defense and the often invisible attack.
Christine Nairn (4; off 84’) – Nairn started the game brightly, with some good through balls and crosses to unlock attacks in the first 20 minutes, but things devolved after that. She recycled a corner kick opportunity in the 11th minute with an excellent low cross that just missed Katie Johnson’s outstretched boot for a sure goal, and had a shot of her own a little later.
However, after that she had a lot of bad touches and made some poor decisions. In the 28th minute she had a poor first touch and nearly put the ball out of bounds at midfield, then scrambled to keep it in bounds but played it directly to a Chicago midfielder, who started a fast counter attack that led to Huerta’s rocket of a shot that Kopmeyer dove to deflect off the post.
As the game progressed she had frequent issues with under-hitting her passes, illustrated most glaringly by two examples. First, on the Red Stars goal in the 49th minute, she played a weak backpass to Kopmeyer, who had to scramble forward and hit a rushed clearance that went Julie Ertz at midfield. Second, in the 67th minute, she tried to switch the point of attack but under-struck the ball and sent it straight to Christen Press, who immediately charged toward goal in a 2 vs. 2 break that again led to a shot and a Huerta rebound that hit the post.
Nahomi Kawasumi (5; off 66’) – For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Naho and Megan Rapinoe swapped sides about 10 minutes into this game and stuck with their new positions for the remainder of the time they were on the field. This had some negative consequences in the defensive phase, but it provided a few positives in attack, particularly when Naho had a nice give-and-go in the 15th minute and set up Rumi Utsugi’s good scoring opportunity just after halftime.
She was one of the few bright spots in possession, completing 92% of her passes for the second game in a row, but as a forward that suggests she might not have been trying enough dangerous, lower-probability passes to unlock attacking opportunities high up the field, and indeed she was often back supporting Carson Pickett and the Reign defense. Her substitution appeared to be tactical, adding an extra defensive midfielder at the expense of the toothless second-half Reign attack, rather than anything to do with her fitness or play.
Katie Johnson (5; off 84’) – Johnson had a few good scoring opportunities in the first half, starting with nearly getting on the end of a low, hard Nairn ball into the box in the 11th minute. She also set up some decent opportunities with hold-up play and laying off passes, primarily to Naho, including a great turn and pass in the 39th minute and a lay-off to Naho to set up Utsugi’s shot early in the second half. Even before the second hydration break she understandably looked gassed, and I was very surprised to not see her substituted earlier.
Megan Rapinoe (6; caution 89’) – Rapinoe created by far the most chances for Seattle in this game, with five opportunities compared to only three for the remainder of the team, although many of these were due to Seattle taking nine corner kicks. Her kick placement was generally quite good and set up several of Seattle’s best scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately, after switching to the right side she and Rebekah Stott were not on the same page, with a number of poor passes between them, and Rapinoe needed to do more to get back and support Stott as Chicago kept overloading her side in the attack. By the end of the game she was one of the only Reign players still pressing high and trying to win back the ball, and she eventually picked up a caution after making a sloppy tackle on Julie Ertz in the closing moments of the match.
Kristen McNabb (incomplete; on 66’) – McNabb came on for Naho but played as a defensive midfielder, which shifted the Reign formation to more of a 4-2-3-1. This shift was presumably because Chicago was finding a lot of success and space in the midfield band, and McNabb did well to chase balls and apply pressure which wasn’t from the exhausted Seattle back line. This was particularly evident in the 79th minute, when Alyssa Mautz found herself with the ball about 25 yards from the Seattle goal and no one stepped up to pressure her except McNabb, who ran over to chase from halfway across the field.
Merritt Mathias (incomplete; on 84’) – While I’m glad that Johnson received the start as a reward for her great work last game, I would have liked to see Mathias come on much earlier in this game to provide a burst of energy. With her extremely late appearance and the fatigue of the rest of the team, she was left alone to chase a few balls in Chicago’s end and had virtually no impact in her short time on the field.
Kiersten Dallstream (incomplete; on 84’) – Like Mathias, Dallstream came on very late and had little time to inject extra energy into the proceedings. She had a good interception and pass almost immediately after entering and took a long shot two minutes later for the final modest Reign scoring opportunity of the game, but by the final few minutes Chicago was happy to sit back and possess the ball in their own half to kill off the game, and she and Mathias could do little to chase down and pressure with so many Red Stars back on the ball.
Malik Badawi (6) – Badawi is an official I was unfamiliar with, but I thought he did well in this game. Neither team committed many fouls (5 for Chicago, 4 for Seattle), but the things that were called I generally agreed with and he also used advantage wisely a few times. Rapinoe’s caution was on her first (and only) foul of the game, but it was a reckless tackle on Julie Ertz and a caution was the correct decision.