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Seattle Reign v. North Carolina Courage: Preview, lineup, how to watch

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Seattle will face the first-place team without Jess Fishlock or Megan Rapinoe

Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

On Sunday, August 13, Seattle Reign FC plays host to the North Carolina Courage, a team currently sitting at the top of the NWSL league table. The two sides will kick off at 6 PM PT at Memorial Stadium, and the game will stream on go90 and the NWSL website. The match is the conclusion of a home-and-home series between the two sides, with Reign FC falling 1-0 to the Courage on the road.

With just eight regular season matches remaining, every game matters for Reign FC, who are currently in fifth and have a chance today to move back into fourth, the final playoff spot.

Today’s match will be a tough test for Reign FC in many ways. The squad will be without NWSL leading goal-scorer Megan Rapinoe, who is out five weeks after picking up a knee injury, and Jess Fishlock, who has a team-approved excused absence.

There’s also a reason the Courage are at the top of the league: the team has mastered its direct style of play. You won’t see build-up from the back and technical movement through the midfield like Reign FC has deployed. North Carolina likes to push long balls to forwards Lynn Williams, Ashley Hatch, and Jess McDonald — three strong, fast players who are willing to put in the hard work to win balls and aren’t afraid to shoot.

Williams in particular has been in strong form lately, scoring two goals in her last two matches — including the game winner last week against Reign FC.

This direct style of play has always been a hard adjustment for Seattle. It’s the opposite of how Laura Harvey and her squad like to play. Most teams who play more direct don’t necessarily have the arsenal of talent that North Carolina has, however. In addition to the forwards, the team has McCall Zerboni and Sam Mewis in the midfield. Zerboni is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league this year, while Mewis’ passing and vision help unlock the Courage attack.

There are plenty of reasons for Reign FC fans to be optimistic, however. Memorial Stadium’s small, narrow field is going to make it tough for North Carolina’s forwards to get in behind the backline. Being so familiar with the bounces on the turf and their positioning on the field is only going to be an advantage for Seattle.

What’s more, despite the Courage being a young and quick team, they will certainly be dealing with some fatigue. After four Courage teammates played significant minutes in the Tournament of Nations, they all started last weekend’s match against Seattle before having to play another game on Thursday against FC Kansas City — a tough battle that only saw the Courage win in the 86th minute.

So what does Reign FC have to do to get three points? Make North Carolina chase the ball by moving it quickly in and out of the midfield. Stay disciplined on the backline for all 90 minutes. And bring that grit, energy, and intensity that Seattle has displayed in other matches — the never-quit attitude that helped the team come from behind against Chicago, or dismantle the Portland Thorns.

Young players like Katie Johnson and Larissa Crummer should get some time today. They have a real opportunity to show us what they can do, as their contributions are going to be critical in this final stretch.

Injury Report

Seattle: OUT: Jess Fishlock (excused absence), Diana Matheson (SEI – left knee ACL tear), Megan Rapinoe (left knee meniscus tear)

North Carolina: OUT: Darian Jenkins (D45 – left ankle dislocation/fracture), Yuri Kawamura (SEI – right knee ACL and meniscus tear)

How to Watch

Date/Time: Sunday, August 13, 6 PM PT
Location: Memorial Stadium, Seattle
TV: N/A
U.S. Streaming: go90 app (iOS/Android), go90.com and NWSLSoccer.com
International Streaming: NWSL app (iOS/Android), NWSLSoccer.com

This is your Reign FC gamethread. Watch and discuss with us.