In their final home game of the NWSL regular season, Hope Solo and Seattle Reign FC established Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium as the league’s toughest venue to win at on the road—a distinction that they hope will soon pay dividends in the postseason.
In front of 4,741 fans in Seattle, at the same venue where they’ll begin their postseason run for the NWSL championship in two weeks, the Reign held off a strong effort from Sky Blue FC and used a late goal from Jessica Fishlock to capture a 1-1 draw that preserved their season-long unbeaten streak at home.
“You could see how much it means,” Seattle head coach Laura Harvey said of her team’s unbeaten streak at home. “Sky Blue could have come in here and just saw the game out. You saw from the first whistle they really wanted to win and we have a [locker room] full of winners. They weren’t going to accept defeat easily. That’s why we’ve been able to create so many records.”
While the ending was happy for the two-time Shield winners, the start was a rough one. Just six minutes into Saturday night’s match, Fishlock was whistled for a foul just outside of Seattle’s box. On the ensuing free kick, Sky Blue forward Nadia Nadim launched a perfect ball past the Reign FC wall, forcing Hope to dive to her right. The Golden Glove-winning goalkeeper got a hand on the shot, but it deflected back and into the net, putting the New Jersey club up 1-0.
“We did start slow,” said Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey. “I get why we were like that — third game in seven days and the emotion of we had already won the league. But I said to them at halftime, ‘The Sky are here to win, there’s no doubt about that. We have a choice, we go out and show if this game means anything or not.’ They responded in a way that said they didn’t want to lose.”
The two sides played a tight match through the rain the rest of the way. After giving up the early tally, No. 1 regained her polish, and her team hit its stride. The Reign FC defense and keeper were stout, allowing only one more shot after the early goal, and zero shots in the second half. New Jersey had just one shot on frame all game long.
Sky Blue was stout on defense for much of the game as well and held the Reign FC players to just one shot in the first half. However Seattle stormed out of the locker room with new life and hammered Sky Blue FC keeper Brittany Cameron with 11 shots, four of them on net. However, as the clocked ticked toward the game’s conclusion the Reign still didn’t have anything to show for their work on the rain-soaked pitch.
With just a short burst of stoppage time looming it looked as though Seattle would be defeated at home for the first time all year. But in the 90th minute everything came together for the Reign to breakthrough.
Because time was running out and Seattle was in desperation mode, Hope was high on the attack in the 90th minute and from her position up the pitch she played the ball to defender Lauren Barnes. From there, the Reign kept moving it and the ball was eventually played to midfielder Kim Little on the left corner of Cameron’s box. The 2014 MVP fired a beautiful right-footed cross back post toward a rising Fishlock, who headed it home for the goal with 89:57 reading on the clock.
Stoppage time came and passed without issue, and the Reign accepted the draw and the 8-0-2 home record for the season.
After the contest, the back-to-back NWSL Shield winners were presented with the regular season trophy and able to finally grasp the physical representation of their 12-3-4 record, which puts them atop the table with 40 points and eight points clear of second place with just one match to go.
Hope and the Seattle Reign FC have one last test left in the regular season before beginning their quest for a NWSL title.
Next weekend they head out on a cross country trip from Washington state to Washington D.C. where they’ll face the Spirit in the final game of the 2015 NWSL regular season. The two teams have split their first two matchup this year with each having won their home match. They last met on July 18th when the Spirit captured a 3-0 win on their home pitch. That also serves as Seattle’s last loss this season. Since then, the Reign are 6-0-1 and have emerged as the best team in the NWSL.
With their dominance over the last six weeks, and building off their regular season success in 2014, the Reign have established themselves as a perennial contenders in the NWSL. But they will have to achieve what eluded them last season, an NWSL championship, before talks of dynasty emerge. They are set to host a NWSL semifinal match on Sunday, Sep. 13 at 6:30 p.m. PT, which will be televised on Fox Sports 1. But their opponent is yet to be determined as the Chicago Red Stars (32 points), Spirit (30 points), and FC Kansas City (29 points) are duking it out for playoff seeding.
So while they wait to find out who they’ll face, the Reign could play spoiler for the Spirit and perhaps even set up a rematch in Seattle between the two clubs. That it could be a playoff preview certainly adds a level of intrigue to Saturday’s match.
The match against the Washington Spirit from Maureen Hendricks Field Maryland SoccerPlex is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT. and can be seen live on the NWSL YouTube Channel.
- Fishlock strikes late to preserve Reign FC’s unbeaten run at home (Reign FC, Aug. 29, 2015)
- Reign FC scores late equalizer vs. Sky Blue FC (NWSL, Aug. 29, 2015)
- Fishlock scores in 90th minute, Reign FC tie regular-season finale (Seattle Times, Aug. 29, 2015)
- Sunday was basically Hope Solo day in Seattle (ESPN W, Aug. 31, 2015)
- Storm to Honor World Cup Champion Hope Solo Aug. 30 (Seattle Storm, Aug. 28, 2015)
- Late goal keeps Reign unbeaten at home (The News Tribune, Aug. 29, 2015)
- Late Fishlock goal preserves Memorial streak (Ride of the Valkyries, Aug. 29, 2015)