NWSL is back! On Saturday, March 24, Seattle Reign FC kicks off the season at home — facing the Washington Spirit in the first match of the season. Kickoff is set for 7 PM PT at the newly rechristened UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium.
After two seasons finishing in fifth place, just one spot away from the playoffs, Reign FC have focused on re-building in the offseason. Laura Harvey left to pursue an opportunity with U.S. Soccer — which didn’t come to fruition — and the team brought in Vlatko Andonovski, who won two NWSL Championship trophies at the helm of FC Kansas City.
The backline looks stronger than ever, with Megan Oyster, Denmark’s Theresa Nielsen, Christen Westphal, and Steph Catley coming on board to help bolster a defense that struggled to prevent goals last season. Catley, one of the best left backs in the world, will miss the first month of play, as she is with Australia for the Asian Cup, which serves as the AFC’s 2019 World Cup qualification tournament.
Under Andonovski, Reign FC hope to have a more cohesive midfield unit this season. While there was plenty of talent there in 2017, the midfield struggled to work together consistently and effectively. Jess Fishlock and Rumi Utsugi return, and the team has brought in Allie Long, Morgan Andrews and the relatively unknown but immensely talented Elizabeth Addo, who serves as Ghana’s captain. Having more options and depth in the midfield is only going to help with possession and chance creation.
In addition to retaining an offensive core of Megan Rapinoe, Naho Kawasumi, and Bev Yanez, Reign FC added England international Jodie Taylor, who won the UEFA Euro Goldden Boot in 2017; and the speedy Jasmyne Spencer, who has the talent to provide pressure and a change of pace on the wings.
Washington, meanwhile, enters the season looking to improve upon their last-place finish. This is a new Spirit squad that boasts significant attacking talent. The team is young, but full of international experience. Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, Taylor Smith, and Andi Sullivan collectively have 53 U.S. Women’s National Team caps and 10 international goals between them. The Spirit also drafted midfielder/defender Rebecca Quinn, who was a rock at Duke University and has worked her way into a consistent role with Canada.
But Washington has struggled defensively against Seattle in the past — especially if Naho and Rapinoe are given too much time on the ball out wide. With limited options on defense, the Spirit are likely to be tested this match. Seattle would be smart to try to spread the field on offense, creating space for Taylor and the midfielders to sneak into the box.
“It’s always important to start off the season strong,” Andonovski said in advance of the match. “But it’s more important to make opposing teams fear coming to Memorial Stadium. Winning our first home game will be a good first step in realizing that objective.”
Here’s to setting the tone for the season. If you can’t make it to Memorial Stadium, follow the action tonight on go90. Welcome back, Seattle Reign FC.
Rebecca Quinn is unavailable for the Spirit due to Visa issues.
Just got word that @WashSpirit defender Rebecca Quinn is unavailable for selection tonight due to visa issues.— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) March 25, 2018
7’ - Megan Rapinoe puts Seattle up 1-0 in the 7th off this free kick.
35’ - Jodie Taylor gets her first goal for Reign FC. Great interception from Utsugi, and lovely pass from Pinoe.
68’ - Joanna Lohman makes it 2-1 in the 68th minute.
Joanna Lohman squeezes through traffic in the box and banks it off the left post to get one back in the 68th minute. pic.twitter.com/jv1ytz656x— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) March 25, 2018
87’ - Great save by Michelle Betos to keep it 2-1.
This save from Betos in the 87th. pic.twitter.com/b6qYwUynaq— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) March 25, 2018
Full-time: Seattle Reign: 2 - Washington Spirit: 1
And your @WashSpirit XI is as follows:— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) March 25, 2018
Dydasco / Church / Smith / Johnson (C)
Sulllivan / MDH / Huster / Banini
Pugh / Hatch
Solaun / Proffitt / Ordega / Lohman / Haracic / Aedo are your available subs.
Seattle Reign FC: OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Kristen McNabb (right knee sprain), Kiersten Dallstream (right hamstring strain); INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Steph Catley (AUS), Lydia Williams (AUS)
Washington Spirit: OUT: Cali Farquharson (left tibial stress injury), Rose Lavelle (left hamstring strain), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery)
How to Watch
Seattle Reign FC vs. Washington Spirit
This is your Seattle Reign FC gamethread. Watch and discuss the home opener with us.