Shutout Sends Seattle to NWSL Championship

On Sunday night in Seattle, Hope Solo and the Seattle Reign FC earned exactly what they’ve been focused on all season: another shot at the National Women’s Soccer League championship.

Hope and the Reign came through with a brilliant shutout victory, dominating the Washington Spirit 3-0 in the NWSL semifinal match on Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium. That win sends the two-time defending regular season champions into a championship rematch with the team that defeated them for the title a year ago—FC Kansas City.

This time around Hope says her team is ready to take care of their unfinished business.

“I truly believe that overall we were the best team last year, but then to walk away without winning the final didn’t sit well with any of us,” Hope said. “For the main group of players to be back, knowing what it felt like last year, it does feel different; it feels like we have some unfinished business. And, it feels like we’re not going to be happy with only winning the shield, we have to go all the way this year.”

To get that opportunity, the Reign first had to get through a tough Spirit squad, and Seattle’s motivation to earn that championship berth showed on both ends of the pitch throughout the evening as they overwhelmed Washington all over.

On defense, the Reign held the Spirit to just three shots and just one on frame. That lone offensive chance for Washington came off the foot of Golden Boot winner Crystal Dunn in the 30th minute. The NWSL scoring leader pushed the ball down the right side and lofted a shot toward the back post, but Hope was there to tip the attempt safely over the crossbar.

On the other end, Seattle had eight shot attempts in the first half. But thanks to the excellent play of the Spirit defense, matching the Reign stop-for-stop, the game remained scoreless through the first half and deep into the second.

But the Reign began to pour it on late and quickly created distance between themselves and their Spirited counterparts.

Beverley Yanez finally broke through for the first goal of the game 71 minutes into the contest, when she took a cross from Megan Rapinoe and blasted it home to give Seattle a hard-earned 1-0 lead.

Rapinoe followed suit just four minutes later, sending a lethal strike inside the right post to make it two-nil. But even with a two-goal cushion, the Reign kept pressing. With two minutes left in regulation, substitute midfielder Mariah Bullock punctuated the decisive victory with the team’s third goal.

On the other end, while the Reign broke through for three goals in the final 20 minutes, Hope held on for her second shutout of the season.

NEXT UP

The NWSL championship between the two-time defending NWSL Shield winners, Seattle Reign FC and the 2014 NWSL Champion FC Kansas City is all set for Thursday, Oct. 1 at Providence Park in Portland.

Before Seattle booked their spot in the final, Kansas City secured theirs on Sunday morning when they dispatched of the Chicago Red Stars in convincing fashion in the other semifinal. FCKC tallied a 3-0 win behind a pair of goals from Hope’s United States Women’s National Team teammate Amy Rodriguez.

USWNT stars Becky Sauerbrunn and Lauren Holiday join Rodriguez on the strong Kansas City roster, but stopping Rodriguez will be the key for Seattle. The forward scored both KC goals in last year’s NWSL Championship Game to give her team a 2-1 victory over the Reign at Starfire Stadium last August. Rapinoe had the lone tally in that match for Seattle.

While it’ll be a rematch of the same two championship game participants from last year, Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey insisted that this year will be much different; at least as far as her Seattle squad is concerned.

“There’s a different mindset in the girls this week than there was a year ago. We were a little bit happy. We’d already done it last year,” Harvey said. “It wasn’t like that this week. It was focus, improvement, wanting to be better, wanting to make sure we had everything nailed down.”

Kansas City and Seattle split two contests this regular season, the home team winning each time. KC took Round 1 with 1-0 win. The Reign and have lost only once since that early season defeat to Kansas City and exacted revenge over FCKC with a 2-1 victory in June. Seattle enters the Oct. 1 championship game as the hottest team in the NWSL.

Kickoff of the NWSL Championship Game is set for 6:30 p.m. PT on Thursday, Oct. 1 and it will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1.

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