After a brief hiatus due to the author traveling, Reign ratings are back in time to review the 16th edition of the NWSL Cascadia derby. This match might have been Seattle Reign FC’s most disappointing performance ever at Memorial Stadium, as they fell 2-1 to the Portland Thorns in a game that was far more lopsided than the score might suggest.
As they have done in some other games featuring opponents with dangerous attacking speed on the flanks, Seattle adjusted their back line and put Merritt Mathias and Lauren Barnes on the outside, opting this time to start Kristen McNabb in the middle with Rachel Corsie. The midfield trio remained the same, with the trio of Jess Fishlock, Rumi Utsugi and Christine Nairn all sharing attacking and defensive responsibilities rather than having a designated defensive and attacking mids. Up front, Kiersten Dallstream started in place of Bev Yanez on the left, while Naho Kawasumi and Katie Johnson reprised their roles from the previous match.
It didn’t take long for Seattle’s preferred tactical approach to break down, as the entire team struggled to connect passes and generally looked out of sync for long stretches of the game. As the breakdowns continued, the team shifted to a more direct approach, hoping to send long balls forward to Johnson to hold up and enable the team to press forward, but that approach also ultimately failed to bear any fruit. While many of the problems this week (and the two goals) are most directly due to defensive issues, nearly the entire team looked poor.
Haley Kopmeyer (5; 3 saves) – Like much of the team, Kopmeyer had a match she’d probably like to very quickly forget. She started brightly, with a great charging save on a Nadia Nadim breakaway in the 42nd minute, but things quickly devolved in the second half. She showed too much urgency in restarting play after an offside call, taking a quick kick to Kristen McNabb, whose mistouch allowed an onrushing Hayley Raso to pounce and slam home the game’s first goal. There was no need for such urgency on the play, and it was reminiscent of the goal kick against Orlando that Marta pounced on in similar fashion. She had similar issues throughout the half, with short distributions to players under pressure, although thankfully none of the others led to such calamitous results. She needs to do better in recognizing when to slow play and help settle her team, especially when playing opponents who prefer a frenetic pace, such as Portland and North Carolina.
Lauren Barnes (4; caution 68’) – Barnes moved to left back again this week in an effort to deal with the speed of Hayley Raso. Unfortunately, like much of the squad, Barnes’ timing was just a bit off all game, and she frequently made ill-advised steps and challenges on long balls played up to Raso, and would get left in the dust as the red ribbon burst into space behind her. One in the 67th minute resulted in a dangerous tackle and caution that could have been worse, and the most unfortunate led to the second Portland goal, where Barnes went to ground in a last-ditch effort to cut off a through ball that got behind her, and she missed badly, leaving Raso to charge in on goal entirely unencumbered.
Barnes also had some particularly poor touches in the game. The most glaring was in the 33rd minute, when she badly mishit a header, dropping it straight onto the foot of Nadia Nadim for a 2-vs-2 opportunity that Merritt Mathias had to scramble to clean up.
Kristen McNabb (4; caution 60’) – The luster of McNabb’s exciting debut to the season has worn off a bit in her more recent appearance, as might be expected for a late-round rookie who is still getting her footing and learning the pace of the pro game. On the first Portland goal, McNabb seemed caught by surprise by Kopmeyer’s quick free kick and horribly mistouched the ball, dropping it into an acre of open space for Raso to pounce on. Beyond that she had one good block in the 31st minute and three tackles on the night, but was by far the quieter of the defensive pair. In several instances when Barnes was caught out of position, it was because she shifted over to support McNabb due to dangerous situations in the middle of the field.
Rachel Corsie (7; PotM) – On a day of otherwise mediocre performances, Corsie stood out as a rock in the back, doing well to shut down danger in the middle of the park and limit Christine Sinclair to just one shot. Corsie had a number of good challenges and blocked shots, and did well to cover for Merritt Mathias when she pushed forward in attack. Toward the end of the game she was aggressive in getting forward, and won the (questionable) foul for Seattle’s penalty kick. On the flip side, she was very lucky not to be cautioned for a tactical foul in the 31st minute, but the official played advantage and play continued long enough that he didn’t return to even discuss the foul with her.
Merritt Mathias (6) – Over the past few weeks, Mathias has quietly evolved into the attack-minded defender that Laura Harvey envisioned when she first moved her back there late last season. She had the gorgeous through ball to set up Johnson’s game winner in Chicago three matches ago, and early in this match she put in another beautiful diagonal cross to the far post that Katie Johnson headed just wide. Her vision in finding attacking channels for crosses and through balls continues to impress.
On defense, Mathias was primarily tasked with marking Nadia Nadim. The dangerous Danish international had a match-high seven shots, but nearly all were from long distance or difficult angles, and only her breakaway chance where she slipped between Mathis and Corsie was on target.
Jessica Fishlock (5; goal 90’) – Fishlock and the entire Reign midfield seemed out of sorts in this game. There was no clear delineation of responsibilities, with all three players shifting between attacking and defensive roles, but often not in sync with one another. Fishlock still doesn’t look like she’s 100% recovered from her most recent injury, and didn’t have her same explosive speed and aggression chasing down balls in the middle of the park. After Maddie Bauer entered as a dedicated defensive mid, Fishlock pushed forward more to try and play-make, but the team still struggled to get purposeful possession in the final third.
Rumi Utsugi (5) and Christine Nairn (5; off 62’) – As mentioned above, the Reign midfield was a mess this game. There was no clear organization or designated roles, and too often they seemed to be chasing the game and running back to fill gaps instead of anticipating plays and being in position to intercept or otherwise disrupt them. In the 24th minute, Utsugi completely lost track of Amandine Henry on a corner kick, but fortunately Kopmeyer punched the ball clear before Henry could pounce. Nairn had a nice free kick just after half to find Kristen McNabb on the far post, and Utsugi created one nice chance with a through ball in the 79th minute, but that was the extent of their effective attacking contributions in the game.
Nahomi Kawasumi (4; off 83’) and Kiersten Dallstream (5; off 59’) – The Reign struggled to find their forwards in this match, particularly using their typical possession style of building play from the back and then looking for their outside forwards to push the ball up field. Naho and Dallstream spent much of the game in their own third providing defensive support, and were mostly bypassed in the attack as Seattle shifted to more direct play and primarily looked for Katie Johnson in the middle to hold up the ball. To give some idea of how uninvolved they were in the attacking phase, Kawasumi and Dallstream completed 8 and 9 passes, respectively, and combined for fewer than 50 touches.
Katie Johnson (5) – Johnson became the go-to option in attack fairly early, when it became apparent that Seattle’s short passing game was completely out of sync and they were struggling to build any possession out of the back and through the midfield. She did reasonably well in her hold-up play and had half of Seattle’s four shots in the game, although neither were on target. On the negative side, she was caught offside three times, which was costly in a game where Seattle rarely had opportunities in the attacking phase.
Beverly Yanez (5; on 59’) – Yanez came on as Seattle’s earliest non-injury substitution of the season, slotting out wide in the forward band. Although not her ideal position, she’s shown a willingness to do the dirty work and get back to help defend when playing out wide, and in this game she had to do a lot of work to support Barnes in her efforts to contain Raso.
Maddie Bauer (5; on 62’) – As part of the shake-up early in the second half, Seattle adjusted their midfield, adding Bauer as a dedicated defensive midfielder instead of sharing that role between the three mids. She had a good challenge and interception in the 75th minute, but Seattle was in such shambles that her introduction wasn’t able to spark any offense. She completed only 4 of her 9 attempted passes.
Larissa Crummer (incomplete; on 83’) – Crummer came on late to give Seattle another big target up front for direct play, but she didn’t see much of the ball (only 5 touches) in her limited time on the field.
Farhad Dadkho (4) – This was a frustratingly officiated game, although in the end it actually benefitted Seattle far more than Portland. The referee was impatient, often blowing his whistle to expedite free kicks and set pieces, which might have indirectly contributed to Kopmeyer’s quick kick that led to the first goal. He was also inexplicably anxious to start the second half, to the point that he blew the whistle to start the half while Christine Nairn was still holding the ball in her hand at the center spot.
But that was fairly minor compared to many questionable fouls and non-fouls. First, I thought Rachel Corsie was deserving of a caution for her tactical foul in the 31st minute. Similarly, Nadia Nadim plowed over Merritt Mathias in the 59th minute and received a talking to, while Kristen McNabb committed a similar, but less egregious, foul a minute later and was booked.
The Reign penalty kick call was inexplicable. Both coaches noted it in their post-game comments, and replays show that although Meghan Klingenberg might have attempted to interfere with Rachel Corsie and block her from charging in on Adrianna Franch, she whiffed completely. The referee disagreed, and not only awarded the penalty, but also cautioned Klingenberg.
Lastly, the decision to have only two minutes of stoppage time in the second half is completely indefensible, considering that there were three goals, six substitutions, three cautions, and a penalty kick. Ultimately there were nearly four minutes played due to Hayley Raso’s late caution, but the posted time was inexcusable considering standard stoppage time guidance to officials.
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