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Merritt Mathias wonder goal keeps Reign FC’s season alive

Seattle remains perfect against Dash in milestone win

Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

If Seattle Reign FC wants to play in the 2017 NWSL Playoffs, they needed to get back on the winning side of things — and they did just that tonight, posting a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash.

The match was relocated to Toyota Stadium, home of MLS side FC Dallas, because of what Hurricane Harvey did to Houston and surrounding areas. Along with the relocation of the match, it was also announced that proceeds from the match would be going towards recovery efforts for Houston.

Back to the match — Seattle had a chance to strike first in the eighth minute as Merritt Mathias won a penalty after Dash defender Bruna Benites took her down.

Co-captain Jess Fishlock lined up to take the penalty, but Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell came up huge and stopped Fishlock’s attempt and Seattle’s second chance effort. Campbell owned the first half as she held her ground against all of Seattle’s efforts. The Reign definitely looked a lot better from their listless performance against the Portland Thorns last weekend, but the Dash goalkeeper stood tall throughout the first 45.

As both teams went into the halftime break scoreless, it’s understandable to think Reign fans were thinking it was going to be one of those games and possibly a deflating way to virtually end their aspirations of sneaking into that final playoff spot — especially after this frustrating sequence.

What’s been a bugaboo for Seattle this season has been coming out of the hafltime break strong and those first 15 minutes where they seemingly hit a reset button and opponents could have punished them on. Fortunately tonight, they kept their energy and tempo right out the gate. It would be rewarded in the 50th minute when Merritt Mathias collected a wonderful through ball from Beverly Yanez and just as she made it onto the edge of the 18-yard box, did this…

Surely this will be a Goal of the Week nominee. Given how Campbell was on point in the first half, it was going to take something special to beat her tonight, and fortunately for the Reign, Mathias just had that bit of special in her right foot on that shot.

After the goal, Seattle kept the pressure on Houston as they wanted to double their lead. It likely was the case of the Texas heat and humidity, but fatigue was catching up to both teams. It looked concerning in the 74th minute when the stretcher crew was called for midfielder Rumi Utsugi, though once she got to the sidelines, she got off the stretcher and walked on her own — perhaps it was just a case of cramps brought on by the heat.

Maddie Bauer replaced Utsugi and fit in very well with Christine Nairn and Jess Fishlock as Seattle’s midfield. Four minutes later, Katie Johnson and a returning Megan Rapinoe entered for Seattle and the rest of the match was the Reign doing what they could to ice the game. Even if it meant a yellow card for co-captain Lauren Barnes for time wasting.

Houston for the most part gave a valiant effort, definitely inspired to play for the city. However, the chances Houston had on Seattle were few and far between dangerous, save for Sarah Hagen’s point-blank effort going wide near the end of the first half. It was mostly a composed night for new goalkeeper Lydia Williams and the back four, as Houston lacked that final bit of quality to really test Seattle.

The win keeps Seattle’s season alive, but it’s notable for a couple other reasons. It keeps Seattle’s record against Houston perfect at 10-0-0 ever since the Dash entered the league in 2014. The win is also the club’s 50th win, and head coach Laura Harvey becomes the first head coach in the league to claim 50 regular season wins. Congratulations are well due for the boss.

Reign FC remains on the road as they are traveling straight to Orlando, Florida, to prepare for their next match against the Orlando Pride. This too is a must-win if they want to keep their season alive, but it will not be an easy one, as Orlando has been climbing the table since week 15 with Alex Morgan and Marta in dangerous form right now.

The match is scheduled for Saturday, September 9 with a 4:30 PM PDT kick-off, but one has to keep an eye on Hurricane Irma in the Atlantic with a yet determined forecast of where it could go next and how much bigger it can become.

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