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Valkyratings: Few standouts as league’s second-best teams grind out a draw

A vintage Fishlock performance wasn’t enough to earn all three points.

Photo by MikeRussellFoto

Seattle Reign FC’s final game before the current international break saw them host the Orlando Pride in a match that featured depleted lineups for both clubs. Inexcusably early camp call-ups meant both teams were without their U.S. stars, and both teams also dealt with injuries to key players such as Steph Catley for Seattle and Marta for Orlando.

With a number of depth players making starts, play was a bit disjointed. Passing in particular was a major issue for both teams, with Seattle completing only 61% of their attempts and the Pride at an abysmal 56%. Both teams had good scoring opportunities interspersed with sloppy play, but neither team was able to capitalize and find the net in a 0-0 draw.

Starters

Lydia Williams (2 saves, shutout; 7) – This was Williams’ third consecutive shutout, and the Reign continued their streak of not yet conceding a goal in the first hour of play this season. Those two accomplishments were nearly lost in the 22nd minute when a Pride set piece was redirected off the crossbar by Alanna Kennedy, followed by Sydney Leroux hitting the rebound wide from point-blank range. The biggest save of the night came in the 74th minute when a deflected cross went to a wide-open Emily van Egmond 12 yards from goal, but Williams made a great kick save to deny her fellow Aussie. Beyond that it was a fairly routine and quiet game for Williams.

Christen Westphal (5) – Westphal was quite active in this game, and was second only to Lauren Barnes for touches in the game. She and Kiersten Dallstream had some trouble getting in sync with one another on attacking forays, often failing to anticipate where each other would be making runs or moving into space, but despite those challenges Westphal still had one of her strongest games to date. In the second half Orlando started pressuring more and overloading her side in attack to create mismatches and launch crosses into the box, which took Westphal some time to adjust to.

Lauren Barnes (7) & Kristen McNabb (6) – Orlando was missing a lot of firepower in this game, which created some conundrums for the Reign defense in planning for how the Pride backups would line up and approach the game. For most of the first half, Orlando relied on aerial chips and crosses into the area, and the Reign defense was more than up to the challenge. Barnes and McNabb shut down nearly every ball that came into the box, denying Sydney Leroux space to operate and win challenges. The one glaring time when this wasn’t the case was on a Pride set-piece in the 22nd minute, when Kennedy slipped between the CBs six yards from goal to redirect a chipped ball. The second half was a bit more challenging for Barnes and McNabb since the Pride started interchanging positions more and sending extra players wide to create overloads, and it took some time for the Reign defense to adjust.

Theresa Nielsen (6) – Nielsen started the game brightly for Seattle, putting in a number of nice crosses in dangerous spots that Seattle’s attacking corps was unable to capitalize on. Defensively, the Pride started probing both wings in the second half and Nielsen was mostly up to the challenge, other than conceding one very dangerous cross in the 74th minute.

Rumi Utsugi (7) – With Allie Long’s absence, Utsugi dropped back into her defensive midfield role, serving as the third passing partner with the Reign CBs for building possession out of the back and tracking runs by Pride midfielders near the top of the Reign box. This was the role I expected her to play most of last year, but Seattle’s tactics last season expected all three midfielders to be much more fluid and dynamic and thus we rarely saw what Utsugi could do in a primarily defensive role. With the exception of not tracking van Egmond’s run in the 74th minute, I thought she did well in this game. Both teams struggled mightily to connect passes, likely due to the number of atypical starters, but Utsugi led all players in connecting on 76% of her attempts. She also had a great look on goal in the 89th minute thanks to a Westphal cross, but seemed to be caught off guard by the pass and unfortunately didn’t get much power on her shot.

Jess Fishlock (8; PotM) – Like Utsugi, Fishlock dropped back a tier in the midfield in this match, taking on the box-to-box role and doing her best to singlehandedly carry the Reign to victory. She was all over the field in this match, switching play frequently and exploiting Orlando’s narrow defense to find open wing players to create attacks when she wasn’t threading through balls to Jodie Taylor, and later to Jasmyne Spencer. As the Reign defense started to bend a bit in the second half, she dropped back to provide more defensive support, making some nice sliding blocks on crosses and intercepting a number of balls in the defensive third to break up plays and spring Reign counterattacks.

Beverly Yanez (5) – Yanez returned to the attacking midfield role she filled in the first three games of the season. This outing was so-so — she stayed high and provided a second line of high pressure behind Taylor, but her passing was disappointing (54% accuracy – second lowest of all Reign starters) and in the second half play tended to bypass her as Seattle started relying far more heavily on their wide forwards and bypassed the midfield to generate attacking sequences.

Kiersten Dallstream (off 62’; 5) – Dallstream was a surprise for me in the starting lineup. Before this match I actually wondered if we had seen the last of her on the pitch for Seattle, after battling some injuries and being a healthy scratch in the four previous games, but she came out and showed her worth in this match where both teams were depleted due to injuries and international duty. She and Westphal struggled to get in sync in the early going, and there were a number of runs and passes that if the movement was slightly different could have turned into great attacking opportunities. Even so, Dallstream found herself with the ball in a pocket of space near the corner of the box in the 26th minute and was able to launch a strong shot, although she probably could have dribbled in another step or two on Kopmeyer and forced something tougher.

Jodie Taylor (5) – With Megan Rapinoe absent from this match, Taylor provided more of the attacking creativity for Seattle. She moved around a lot more than usual up top, frequently shifting wide to receive passes and even making some nice crosses into the box, which unfortunately tended to go into spaces she would normally be occupying. In the defensive phase she was a big contributor to Seattle’s high press which forced pressured the Pride’s makeshift defense into distribution errors, but without a goal to show for her efforts this game felt like a bit of a let-down.

Nahomi Kawasumi (off 62’; 6) – In a game where passing was generally poor and long passes in particular tended to result in turnovers, Naho provided a lot of smart, short passes and one-two play to break through defensive lines and find pockets of space in which to work. She had two good scoring opportunities in the game, the first in the 18th minute after a nice dribble, and the second early in the second half when she won a second ball near the top of the box and had a go from about 20 yards that Haley Kopmeyer parried over the bar for the NWSL Save of the Week. I was a bit surprised to see Kawasumi come off at the hour mark given her productivity, but with the rest of her teammates having trouble with Orlando’s pressure in the second half shifting to speedy wingers who can play more direct probably made sense.

Substitutes

Jasmyne Spencer (on 62’; caution 70’; 5) & Elizabeth Addo (on 62’; 5) – Spencer and Addo entered together near the hour mark when Seattle needed to change things up as Orlando started gaining the upper hand and disrupting the Reign’s possession-oriented play. Spencer picked up a silly caution for jumping in front of a Kopmeyer punt shortly after entering, but more than made up for that with some good runs and a fantastic cross in stoppage time that should have found any of Seattle’s other attacking players for an easy redirect. Addo likewise showed some flashes of good play but couldn’t quite get into the game as a sub in the same way that she did as a starter the week before.

Officials

Danielle Chesky (6) – There were a lot of fouls in this game, but overall I thought Chesky did a good job of keeping things under control and preventing any issues from escalating. The roughest foul of the game came in the 79th minute when Shelina Zadorsky plowed over Spencer near midfield during a Reign attack, but advantage was called since Spencer was able to complete a pass to Taylor before the foul. Chesky did well to let the play finish before returning and cautioning Zadorsky for the foul.

Poll

Who was your Reign FC player of the match?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Lauren Barnes
    (3 votes)
  • 46%
    Jess Fishlock
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Rumi Utsugi
    (0 votes)
  • 23%
    Lydia Williams
    (3 votes)
  • 7%
    Other (note in comments)
    (1 vote)
13 votes total Vote Now