It was an easy narrative to latch onto — Seattle Reign FC responds well to adversity, and the squad typically comes back after putting in disappointing performances the week prior. They could do the same against their fiercest rivals after blowing two leads on the road against Sky Blue.
That wasn’t the case for Reign FC on Saturday, however, as the home team fell 2-1 to the Portland Thorns at Memorial Stadium in front of 6,041 fans — the second highest attendance to date.
Seattle started the match in typical fashion, dominating possession for the first 10 minutes of the game. But they never looked goal dangerous in that possession, and the players slowly let the game fall out of their hands. The defensive struggles continued, as the backline failed to clear a few corner kicks — and were fortunate that Portland failed to capitalize on the miscues.
The possession was lacking as well, with Seattle unable to connect simple passes and move the ball up the field from the back — a trademark of the Reign FC attack. Reign FC was lucky to head into halftime without giving up a goal, and it was hopeful to assume the squad could recover and bring the intensity in the second half. That’s what this Seattle squad does, after all.
Unfortunately, Seattle would find themselves chasing early, as Thorns forward Haley Raso scored in the 49th minute. Seattle earned a free kick in Haley Kopmeyer’s box off an offisde call. Kopmeyer played a short ball to centerback Kristen McNabb, but her pass back to the Reign FC goalkeeper was too soft. Raso pounced on the ball and — with Kopmeyer out of position — easily rolled it into the net.
Kopmeyer intended to pass to McNabb and Raso pounced on it and the visitors are up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/FhRc1lNGlm— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) August 26, 2017
Laura Harvey saw that her team was struggling to maintain possession, and made some early subs in an attempt to change the dynamic of the game. Bev Yanez replaced Kiersten Dallstream on the left wing in the 59th minute, and Maddie Bauer came in for Christine Nairn in the 62nd. Dallstream struggled to have an impact and get involved in the attack, while Nairn really couldn’t get the midfield under control.
Bauer, who was playing in just her second match this season, did well to break up the Thorns attack and help connect some passes. But she wasn’t enough to shift the Reign’s mentality and get them back in the game.
Any momentum Seattle could have had was halted in the 86th minute. A ball was played to Raso on the wing, and Lauren Barnes slid to clear it away. It deflected off of Raso, who was then through on goal. Kopmeyer stopped her first shot, but the deflection fell back to Raso. The forward didn’t miss on her second attempt, and slid it near post into the back of the net.
Kopmeyer got the save on the first 1 v 1 but didn't secure the ball and Raso followed through on the second chance. pic.twitter.com/Sz3gMFGs5O— Ride of theValkyries (@rovalks) August 26, 2017
“You can’t allow goals like we did,” Harvey said after the match, clearly frustrated by the consistent theme this season on defense of giving up dangerous shots due to misplayed clearances or passes.
Seattle would get one back in stoppage time, when Rachel Corsie earned a penalty kick. A floating ball was put into the box, and Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch came out to try to claim it. Corsie was there to challenge the ball, and Meghan Klingenberg was as well. From the stands, it looked like Klingenberg pushed Corsie into Franch, but Harvey was quick to say after the match that she had no idea why a penalty was called.
Jess Fishlock converted the penalty, giving the Reign a small bit of energy, but it was too little too late. The match ended with a 2-1 scoreline, but it could have easily been 6-1 if Portland had done a better job finishing its chances. The Thorns got off 25 shots, six of which were on goal.
Seattle, meanwhile, managed just four shots the entire match. They clearly missed Megan Rapinoe this match, who dismantled Portland in July. Thorns head coach Mark Parsons was quick to praise his backline for their performance today — calling the match a complete team performance, and perhaps Portland’s best game this year.
Credit to Portland, as they came to Memorial and were nearly flawless. But it feels more like the Reign handed them a win than the reverse.
“We didn't deserve anything out of [the game]. It’s hard to say that. It’s disappointing to say that. There’s not many times at Memorial that I’ve ever said that — and especially against Portland. But we have to regroup and decide what to do,” Harvey said.
With the loss, Seattle is five points out of fourth, behind the Orlando Pride and Chicago Red Stars, who are tied with 32 points. There are just four matches remaining in the regular season, and Seattle is going to have to win nearly every one of them to keep their playoff hopes alive. The next challenge for Seattle will be a road game against the Houston Dash on Sunday, September 3. Three points are no longer a luxury — they’re a must.
The good news is that it sounds like Rapinoe may be back in the next week or two. Her energy is going to be needed as the team pushes for the postseason.