Reign Open With Win Over WNY

Hope Solo began her third season in goal for Seattle Reign FC in familiar fashion, with a win on Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.

The 2014 regular season champion Reign went unbeaten on Moda Pitch en route to a berth in the National Women’s Soccer League championship match last season. In Sunday’s opener, Memorial Stadium once again proved formidable for an opponent as Seattle blasted their way to a 5-1 win over the Western New York Flash.

Hope finished with five saves in the victory, but it was her USWNT teammate Megan Rapinoe that was the star of the game. Rapinoe recorded a hat trick that turned a close game into a route over a 13-minute span late in the second half.

Rapinoe’s first goal, a header in the 71st minute, gave Seattle their cushion back shortly after Hope allowed her first and only goal of the game in the 68th minute. Rapinoe followed with another header moments later in the 74th minute and then capped her trick with a right footed finish in the 86th minute.

“I don’t think I’ve had a hat trick since I was like 12,” Rapinoe told the Seattle Times after the game. The last one was my favorite. Jess [Fishlock] did a great job in getting that ball in there. I haven’t scored a header in a long time. Especially not two in one game.”

The game, which marked the season opener for both teams, took a little while to get going for either side, with neither mounting much of a rally in the first 20 minutes. Seattle finally broke through in the 25th minute and it was Fishlock who scored the goal with a right foot redirection in mid-air of a long cross into the box by Rapinoe.

According to Reign coach Laura Harvey, that first goal by Fishlock set the team at ease and carried them the rest of the way.

“I thought the game started with both teams playing quite frantic but I thought once we scored we settled down a little bit and started to play the game that we want to play,” she said. “Goals change games and we pride ourselves on creating opportunities.”

Seattle took a 1-0 lead into halftime and early in the second half they doubled the advantage when Kim Little set up Beverly Yanez with a glorious chance in the 53rd minute that Yanez fired from the right side of the box past WNY goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and into the left side of the net to make it 2-0.

The visitors got one back past Hope in the 68th minute when Samantha Mewis took a feed from Sydney Leroux to the left of the box and crossed into the box where a waiting Jordan Angeli quickly fired it high into the shortside of the net.

However that was the only ball to get by Hope all afternoon and she made four important second half saves to keep Seattle in the lead.

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The first of those actually came prior to Yanez’s tally that made it 2-0. The Reign were still clinging to a 1-0 advantage early in the second half and Hope came up with her best save sequence of the game to keep them there.

In the 50th minute, Western New York broke out on a quick attack and the ball was lofted by a midfielder toward the goal, with Flash striker Sydney Leroux on the run toward it. Leroux, also a USWNT member, played for the Reign up until March 30 when she was traded to the Flash, and she had a chance to even the score with her former team.

But Hope read the development of the play, came out of the net and slid to make a stop on the ball before Leroux could put a good strike on it. Hope’s aggressive play resulted in herself, Leroux and Reign defender Kendall Fletcher winding up on the ground. However, Hope limped back to her feet as WNY retained possession and was in position to save a shot from the left side of the box by Jaelene Hinkle less than a minute later.

It was shortly after that sequence that the goal from Yanez gave Seattle some breathing room.

Moments later, Hope made another big play to keep it 2-0 when she punched away a corner kick attempt by Becky Edwards to thwart a scoring chance. And although the Flash did finally breakthrough for a goal nearly 70 minutes into the contest, Rapinoe’s trio of scores and a couple more plays by Hope in defense of her net helped the Reign close out their first win of the season.

Afterward, Fishlock who scored the first goal of the season and provided the assist on the last one of the game, told the Seattle Times that the execution of the Seattle attack, the volume of scoring and the way in which they were scored should all serve as confidence boosters going forward.

“Scoring goals is one of the hardest things to do,” she said. “We lacked scoring goals in open play last season, especially the first part of the season. To score five in open play, and some of them were absolutely fantastic goals, that’s something we can be very happy with.”

NEXT UP

Hope and the Reign will be back in action next Saturday when they head to Chicago for their first road game of the season against the Red Stars at Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Stadium. That was the site of one of Seattle’s only two regular season losses last season, a 1-0 loss to Chicago on July 12th. The Reign went 1-1-1 in three meetings with the Red Stars last season and Hope allowed just one goal in each game.

The first match between the teams this season is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. PDT Sunday.

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