We’re finally back with ratings after a long break due to the author being on vacation and a league-wide break for the Tournament of Nations. In the first game after the break, Seattle Reign FC hosted the Washington Spirit for the final time this season, earning a 2-0 victory to solidify their hold on second place.
Despite the extended break, Seattle came into the match with a number of significant injuries and absences which necessitated some changes to the lineup. With defensive midfielder Rumi Utsugi questionable and attacking midfield options Bev Yanez and Elizabeth Addo both out, head coach Vlatko Andonovski opted to put Jess Fishlock into the creative role and tapped Kristen McNabb for defensive mid responsibilities. Jasmyne Spencer also earned a start at forward over Naho Kawasumi, who was fresh off a Tournament of Nations appearance with Japan. Finally, Steph Catley remains on an excused absence due to a death in her family, so former Spirit fullback Alyssa Kleiner slotted in at left back.
The Spirit opted to play a hybrid 5-2-3 / 3-4-3 formation, using Caprice Dydasco and Taylor Smith as speedy wingbacks in an effort to overload the flanks. Seattle responded by playing wide as much as possible rather than possessing through the middle, making runs into the space vacated by the wingbacks when they pressed forward. The strategies were generally effective for both sides in attack, but Seattle was much better about capitalizing on their chances and had nearly double to total shots of the Spirit and three times as many shots on target (6 versus 2).
Lydia Williams (2 saves, shutout; 7) – Williams wasn’t asked to do much in this game, but both looks on goal by the Spirit were challenging shots that required snap saves to keep her clean sheet. Her rating might have been higher if she’d been challenged more, but as noted in the past, it’s never a bad thing to not need to do much work on defense and still earn a clean sheet. And we won’t say anything more about this little turf monster…
Nominating myself for the next Miss Congeniality.... gots the grace of a baby giraffe pic.twitter.com/b8Hx3s28FW— Lydia Williams (@lydsaussie) August 6, 2018
Alyssa Kleiner (6) & Theresa Nielsen (7) – The Reign outside backs were incredibly active in this game, bombing up and down the field and racking up a ton of touches and passes. Nielsen led the team both in touches (92) and pass attempts (58), while Kleiner led the team in tackles with seven. They were both very aggressive in stepping up and grabbing loose balls and Spirit passes into the attacking third, snuffing out numerous scoring opportunities before they could even get started, although there were a few times where the Spirit were able to get in behind. In particular, in the 80th minute Taylor Smith sped past and was able to turn Kleiner, leading to Washington’s best scoring opportunity of the night. On the opposite side of that same play, Nielsen lost track of Caprice Dydasco, who connected with the ensuing Smith cross. The main difference in their ratings stems from Nielsen being far more productive in the attack (4 chances created versus 1), but Kleiner also had a nice shot on goal early in the second half.
Lauren Barnes (7) & Megan Oyster (caution 84’; 6) – The Reign centerbacks had a fairly quiet game, thanks in large part to the Spirit formation and tactics causing most of their attacking focus to come via their wingbacks. Neither player had as many touches as typical, but Barnes still led the team in passing accuracy and Oyster wasn’t far behind. Toward the end of the game Oyster had a couple of tough fouls in a row — the first led to her booking and the second got a stern lecture from the referee.
Kristen McNabb (off 68’; 5) – With the injuries to Rumi Utsugi, Elizabeth Addo and Bev Yanez, Seattle had limited options in midfield. They opted to start the game with McNabb playing the holding role, where she was instructed to stay back and play as a destroyer to disrupt play in the middle. When she was in the right position she was quite effective and able to break up dribbles and passes, or force play out to the flanks. The main issues were that she sometimes got caught watching the play as the player she was meant to track moved past her to receive a pass, and when she had the ball at her feet she tended to be a bit too hesitant in moving it along, resulting in a few sloppy turnovers in dangerous spots. These sort of issues would likely resolve with a bit more time in the role.
Allie Long (assist 44’; 7) – Long had another nice game in a holding midfield role. For the first hour or so she played just ahead of McNabb and primarily served a shuttler, but she also had a couple of nice runs into the box. In the 32nd minute she had a nice trap, spin-move and shot from about 10 yards out, but it fizzed just over the bar. Later in the half she was instrumental in setting up Seattle’s first goal, first by receiving Spencer’s initial pass after the interception, then circulating the ball around the midfield to disrupt Washington’s formation, and finally by putting a picture-perfect 40 yard through ball onto Spencer’s foot when she finished her run into the box. In defense Long was a little sloppier than usual and racked up four fouls, and I thought she was lucky to escape without a persistent infringement card.
Jess Fishlock (7) – Fishlock was given free rein to roam in midfield this week, and it paid off handsomely despite her not getting on the score sheet. She had a team-high five shots and created another four scoring opportunities, and had a few more good runs toward goal that just missed connecting with crosses into the box. Just for fun, since they’re finally available on the league website, here was Fishlock’s chalkboard from the game:
Her only two notable negatives in my notes were the unnecessarily quick free kick in the 48th minute that hit Havana Solaun in the back and led to the Spirit’s first shot on goal, and late in the game when she failed to track a Mal Pugh run into the box on a recycled Spirit corner kick, which allowed Pugh to get behind the entire Reign defense and onto the end of a cross into the box for a breakaway opportunity. Fortunately the ball got caught up in Pugh’s feet and the chance was ultimately wasted.
Megan Rapinoe (assist 71’, off 90’+2’; 7) – You would have never guessed that Rapinoe was on her third game in a week (plus a lot of travel!) with the effort and performance she put in. There was one moment in the middle of the second half where she looked gassed after a long run, but still somehow managed to find another energy reserve and push onward. Although Rapinoe’s shooting was a bit off (none of her four shots were on frame), she created five scoring opportunities for her teammates, including the assist to Jodie Taylor thanks to her quick throw-in which caught the Spirit defense napping. Her passes were excellent all game and she had a number of long pinpoint crosses to switch the attack and keep the Spirit scrambling. Even on defense she put in an honest performance, chasing down the ball the rare times she lost it and pestering Spirit defenders and midfielders when Washington had possession.
Jodie Taylor (goal 71’; 6) – Over the past few weeks Taylor seems to have taken to heart concerns that she was taking too many touches on the ball, and has been quicker to get her shots and passes off. On shots this has come at the cost of accuracy, with three of her four shots missing the target this week, but in exchange the ones she does get on frame have been tougher for opposition keepers to save and she’s now scored three goals in her last five matches.
Jasmyne Spencer (goal 44’, off 89’; 8; PotM) – Spencer is frequently lauded for her pace and her ability to make runs at tired defenses as a substitute, but in this game she showed that she’s much more versatile and can make big contributions on both sides of the ball. She was a dynamo all game long, running up and down the field and generally wreaking havoc on her flank. She started her own scoring play with a smart run back into midfield to intercept a Spirit pass, after which she laid off the ball to Allie Long and wheeled up field to eventually receive a return pass near the top of the box, which she deftly chipped over Haracic with the outside of her boot. She was unlucky not to score a second off a header in the middle of the second half.
Morgan Andrews (on 68’; incomplete) – Andrews entry shifted Seattle’s midfield slightly, with Long dropping to be the lone defensive mid, Andrews serving in a box-to-box role, and Fishlock remaining in her free role. Aside from one momentary breakdown in the 80th minute where multiple defenders made errors that led to Dydasco’s shot, this worked well for Seattle and they had more possession in the middle after the change. Andrews didn’t have a ton of touches, but she was effective and completed 9 of her 11 pass attempts.
Christen Westphal (on 89’; incomplete) & Jaycie Johnson (on 90+2’; incomplete) – Westphal and Johnson were garbage time subs which gave two deserving players the chance for a round of applause from the crowd as they exited, and also gave Johnson her first professional minutes (well… seconds). Neither had much time or opportunity to make an impact, beyond taking a minute or two off the clock.
Mark Allatin (6) – Overall this game went well. There were a couple of questionable moments on free kicks – the first when Jess Fishlock made a quick kick in the 48th minute that hit a retreating Havana Solaun mere feet away and bounced to Ashley Hatch for Washington’s first shot on goal, and the second late in the game when nearly the same thing happened for the Spirit and Megan Rapinoe intercepted the kick for a Reign counter. In both cases the opposition player was much less than 10 yards away, but they were each retreating away from the ball and not attempting to interfere when the player decided to take the free kick quickly; in that not stopping the play for encroachment was the correct decision. My only minor quibble with the game is that I would have liked to see cautions come sooner, rather than extensive warnings and lectures after multiple fouls, but that’s an issue league-wide.
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