One of the treasures in life is the summer blockbuster movie. What the stereotypical summer blockbuster movie lacks in a plot that challenges the viewer in thinking what is going to happen next, is made up tenfold in spectacular action that often defies logic. Summer blockbusters are like a carnival of audio and visual sensations and tonight, at Memorial Stadium, 4,464 people saw the NWSL's first true summer blockbuster of their season.
Oh where to begin.
Going into this match, Seattle Reign FC and Sky Blue FC were two teams in the thick of competing for the NWSL playoffs. Both teams have forwards who are ridiculously in form, and the leading scorers in the league. It was a recipe for an entertaining game that could have playoff implications, if not be a potential post-season matchup.
Led by Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC is a good team. They have historically been tough for Seattle, whether at home or on the road. Sky Blue FC is one of only two teams to come to Memorial Stadium and walk out with a win. When the 2017 season started, they played Seattle to a 1-1 draw that gave Reign FC goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer NWSL Player of the Week honors. With both sides having found their form, this second encounter had a feeling that there would be goals exchanged.
There were nine goals in this game. Yes, you read that right, nine.
Resembling more of a baseball score (unless you're playing FIFA on Amateur difficulty), this was a game in which the Reign FC held a 4-goal lead, Sky Blue put on a fighting-spirit comeback to erase said 4-goal lead, and U.S. international Megan Rapinoe claimed a hat-trick, with an emphatic match-winner.
Seattle opened the scoring in the 27th minute on a Goal of the Week, scratch that, Goal of the Year nominee free kick. Reign would carry this lead into the halftime break.
Then, the second half that we will all be talking about for a while happened.
It started with Beverly Yanez winning a penalty after she was sandwiched between two Sky Blue FC defenders. Megan Rapinoe converted the penalty to make it 2-0 Reign FC.
A couple minutes later, Yanez connected on a cross from Nahomi Kawasumi with a textbook header to make it 3-0 Reign FC.
AND! Just like that, Reign are all over Sky Blue as Naho crossed to Bev and The Sunshine Assassin strikes again! 3-0 Reign! pic.twitter.com/h72nohHbsL— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) July 23, 2017
It became 4-0 Reign FC after Rapinoe sent a cross into the box that Sky Blue FC defender Erica Skroski, in an attempt to clear, sent straight into the back of the net.
At this point, everyone in Memorial Stadium was feeling good with, in theory, an unassailable lead. Though Laura Harvey said post-match, even with a 4-goal lead, "They're not done here."
Indeed Sky Blue FC were not.
In the 60th minute, forward Leah Galton won a penalty in the box after defender Merritt Mathias took her down. Forward Kelley O'Hara converted the penalty. Seattle's lead was down to 3.
Four minutes later, Sky Blue claimed their second goal. The initial attack was by O'Hara, which goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer saved. However, it was the second chance attack, something that has plagued the Reign FC this year, that bit them again. Galton seized that chance to get it past Kopmeyer. 4-2 now, Seattle.
Some bad ball watching here and Sky Blue is given a gift-wrapped second goal, converted by Leah Galton. pic.twitter.com/r0OsZvnCr8— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) July 23, 2017
72nd minute and a flat clearance attempt by Seattle resulted in a gift-wrapped opportunity for midfielder Daphne Corboz to pounce on and make it 3 for the visitors. 4-3, Seattle.
Seven goals. 4-3. Hold on to your butts, everyone. pic.twitter.com/Hqh42n6Sw9— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) July 23, 2017
Then came Sam Kerr, the most in-form and most dangerous soccer player on the planet right now.
Up to this point, the Reign FC defense had done the work in containing the Australian forward. However, at this point, claiming three goals nearly as fast as Reign FC did to start the second half, the momentum was all on their side. Just like when Naho crossed the ball to Yanez, a cross to Kerr in the box and a picture-perfect header saw the match inexplicably tied at 4-4.
Full credit to Sam Kerr, it was a great connection and yeah.— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) July 23, 2017
Again, nothing makes sense in this game.
Before the restart, several of the Reign FC players gathered just shy of midfield to have a conference about what was going on.
"We just kind of lost focus a little bit and let it be open like that and we really needed to consolidate the game at that point, which we didn't. I'm sure there'll be lots of film from this game—not in the form of the five goals, but we'll learn from it," said Megan Rapinoe post-match.
Despite giving up the 4-goal lead, Reign FC still fought to get the win and they did in the 87th minute. Megan Rapinoe claimed her hat-trick with a sledgehammer shot just a few steps into the 18 yard box, going upper right past goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for the match-winner.
A theme both head coaches Christy Holly and Laura Harvey said post-match was that mental lapses gave each side the momentum to go on the scoring frenzies that they did. Both expressed that once the momentum of the match was on their side, scoring was pretty much at-will. On the flip side, both sides got punished when they committed mental lapses. Needless to say, there's plenty for the teams to work on when they return from the international break and resume league play two weeks from now.
It was a soccer game that had plenty of highlight reel goals, but there were also mistakes committed by two teams that cannot be made if they want to get into the playoffs.
Was it fun to see the Reign bust out 3 goals in about 10 minutes? Yep.
Did nothing make sense as Sky Blue chipped away and overcame a 4-goal lead? Yep.
Were you ready for the aliens to take you after Rapinoe claimed her hat-trick? Yep.
Did you see awesome and ugly soccer in a 90 minute span? Yep.
Was it entertaining for all the right and wrong reasons? Absolutely.
There you go, you just witnessed the NWSL's version of a summer blockbuster movie. Hope you had some popcorn and an ice cold drink on hand.
Reign FC and the league are off next week as the Tournament of Nations takes place. Reign's Megan Rapinoe and Rumi Utsugi have been called up to their national teams, United States and Japan respectively, and are likely to feature at some point during the 3-match series. The Reign resume league play on August 5 as they hit the road to face the North Carolina Courage FC. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 4:30 PM PT.