Reign Bounce Back, Blank Breakers

It didn’t take long for Hope Solo and the Seattle Reign to regain their championship form.

After a disappointing outing in their season opener at home last week the Reign went on the road and found their groove. Hope made three saves, including one in stoppage time to preserve her clean sheet, in a decisive 3-0 victory for Reign FC over the Boston Breakers on Sunday night at Harvard University’s Jordan Field.

While No. 1 kept Boston off the scoreboard, Kim Little fueled the offense with a goal and two assists.

“We did well to capitalize on the space we got,” Seattle coach Laura Harvey said. “We don’t tend to get loads and loads of chances or take loads and loads of shots, but when we do we’re pretty clinical.”

Indeed, the Breakers did generate more scoring opportunities than the Reign. Boston broke through the Seattle defense, outshooting its offense 11-10. However, Hope stood tall to stop three big chances and the others missed the mark.

Meanwhile, Seattle maximized their opportunities, including an early statement goal that showed this game would not go the same as last week’s stunning loss to Sky Blue FC. The first Reign goal, which proved to be the game-winner, came just nine minutes into the match when Little dropped it off inside to Manon Melis. In just her second National Women’s Soccer League match, the Dutch star one-touched a loft over Boston goalkeeper Libby Stout and in for the match’s first goal.

Seattle added a second tally off a corner kick by Little in the 39th minute. Rachel Corsie headed home that Little assist, and just before halftime, Hope made a key save to keep it two-nil at the break. In the 43rd minute, Hope gave no favors to U.S. National Team teammate Stephanie McCaffrey. The Breakers found some space deep in Reign territory, but McCaffrey’s try was low and soft, making an easy save for No. 1.

Early in the second half, Boston had one of its best opportunities off a counterattack in the 53rd minute. Kristie Mewis gathered a through ball from Kyah Simon and was one-on-one with No. 1. However, Hope was aggressive, coming well out of the six-yard box to cut off any angles, forcing Mewis’ shot wide.

Then in the 79th minute, Little came through with the final dagger. The crafty midfielder slipped through and accepted a pass inside from Beverly Yanez. Before Boston could react, Little slotted it home in the back corner, creating an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

The Breakers had one last gasp during extra time. Simon played a high loft into the box, and it was advanced in from there to reserve forward Morgan Marlborough, who sent a point-blank shot Hope’s way. The reigning World Cup Golden Glove award winner made a tough reaction save to keep Boston off the board and secure her first clean sheet of the season.

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The Reign (1-1-0, 3 pts) currently in a six-way tie for third place in the jumbled NWSL standings, behind only the Portland Thorns (1-0-1, 4 pts) and the Washington Spirit (2-0-0, 6 pts), who top the table as the league’s only undefeated squad.

The two-time defending NWSL Shield winning Seattle squad will attempt to gain ground next week while extracting a little revenge from a rival, when they return home to host the FC Kansas City squad that has defeated the Reign in the last two NWSL championship matches. FCKC (0-1-1) is off to a slow start, but Seattle knows that the defending champs, led by Hope’s USWNT teammate Becky Sauerbrunn on defense, are always a force to be reckoned with.

The title game rematch is slated to begin at 4 p.m. PT next Sunday from Memorial Stadium in Seattle.

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