Seattle Reign FC versus Portland Thorns FC. Not much needs to be said about the rivalry, but there sure is extra juice in it when the MLS sides hook up earlier in the day. The MLS side Portland Timbers may have struck first, getting the 3-2 victory over Seattle Sounders FC, but at Memorial Stadium, Seattle Reign FC defended their house and did their part to #BeatPortland.
It wasn’t the 5-goal blockbuster that happened back in May at Providence Park. Folks had to wait until the 89th minute to get the lone goal of the game, but Jodie Taylor’s tally was enough to secure the win — the team’s second against Portland in their 3-match regular season series — and avenge civic pride.
Action was end-to-end right from kickoff. Seattle had two standout chances in the first half where efforts from Megan Rapinoe and Beverly Yanez could have, and perhaps should have, found the back of the net, but full credit goes to Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch for making some world class saves.
Seattle goalkeeper Lydia Williams wasn’t without activity in the first half, but the chances by Portland Thorns didn’t force her to come up big like her counterpart. It was one aspect of the match that Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons pointed out when summarizing his thoughts on the evening.
“AD (Adrianna Franch) coming up absolutely huge, I mean that was the difference. AD came up huge with some big saves, find me a better goalkeeper in the NWSL than her. There isn’t one and she’s only been back for a couple weeks from a long injury. We just didn’t make their goalkeeper work, unfortunately. I don’t remember Lydia (Williams) having to make a save. So tight contest, harsh, feels really harsh, credit to Seattle who came knocking on the door at the end and nicked a winner.”
When Portland started the second half, they almost caught Seattle on the restart as Australian international Hayley Raso had a golden opportunity from near the penalty spot as Seattle defended a throw into the box, but it went high.
Seattle would have chances. Portland would have chances. Seattle had some hard challenges. Portland had some hard challenges. That’s how the evening went, with each potentially dangerous ball into the box smothered in tension and drama as the Seattle vs. Portland rivalry always brings. This was most apparent in the individual battles between Seattle’s wingers, Rapinoe and Elizabeth Addo, versus Portland’s fullbacks, Ellie Carpenter and Meghan Klingenberg, respectively.
Addo has been seeing her minutes increase ever since she got her first start back in May 23 at Houston Dash, and the more Reign FC fans see her on the field, they see flair and pace. Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski had nothing but praise for her after the match. “She was dangerous when the ball came near to her, she was able to protect us first and foremost and not lose the ball. She was able to eliminate the first press, the first defender and opened up the game for us, which made us a little more dangerous.”
And just when it looked like the match was heading into a scoreless draw, a bit of veteran savvy by Rapinoe, sensing Carpenter was fatigued, brought forth just a little bit of burst and she sent in this sublime cross to a free and unmarked Taylor, and then...
“Everyone felt relief when the ball went in there, because once again we created enough opportunities to score one goal and if the ball didn’t go in, I guess there’s nothing we can do. I was very happy with our defensive performance, with our defensive organization and discipline,” said Andonovski about Taylor’s goal, and needless to say, you can see and feel the elation in them when it went in.
It’s been a long time coming for Seattle to have a goal from the run of play, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Rapinoe was doing Rapinoe things as usual, but the movement Beverly Yanez provided tonight as the point of the midfield trio was effective, especially when you have such anchors and conductors like Allie Long and Rumi Utsugi. Taylor’s movement off the ball has been lauded by teammates as something they’ve never had before. The aforementioned Addo and the one-on-one battles she had with Klingenberg really warrants close viewing. Seattle Reign FC were creating chances, and while some of those chances on any other night would have been highlight reel stuff, it was the easiest of touches from right at basically the mouth of the goal that is the match winner.
Of course Andonivski couldn’t leave out mention of the team’s effort on the defensive side of the ball, and their praise is also well warranted. After silencing the hype around the debut of Christen Press for Utah earlier in the week, Seattle silenced league golden boot leader Christine Sinclair, as well as other impact players like Lindsey Horan, Hayley Raso, and Midge Purce, all capable of scoring in the blink of an eye.
No really, look at this happy team. pic.twitter.com/292w2iHnmC— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) July 1, 2018
Winning against your rival is always good, or as Rapinoe said after the match, “I mean it’s fucking great.” As it should be. For Seattle, getting the full three points against Portland and holding Utah Royals FC scoreless in the midweek match to get a point, and the process in which they got those results, these were the responses the team needed to have after last weekend’s brutal loss at home to North Carolina Courage FC.
Seattle’s victory against Portland and results around the league have Reign FC back in second place in the league table with 23 points, one point ahead of Orlando Pride. While there are still plenty of games left to play with some multiple matches in a week still there to test squad depth, the road to securing maximum points, getting a playoff spot, and that coveted opportunity to host a semi-final match is one Seattle Reign FC are very much on. They’ll tell you they take it one match at a time, but they know what’s on the horizon and beyond.
And what’s on the horizon next for Seattle Reign FC is a match next Saturday, hosting the Houston Dash. Kickoff for that one is scheduled for 7 PM and will be broadcast on go90.