Seattle Takes Down Reigning NWSL Champs

Fresh off their first win of the season, Hope Solo and the Seattle Reign returned home and took down the two-time defending National Women’s Soccer League champion FC Kansas City.

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Hope made a key first-half save, erasing the only shot-on-goal she faced all afternoon, as the Reign used a lone goal from Kim Little to capture a 1-0 victory over the Blues, with whom Hope and Co. quite a history. The Reign won the last two NSWL regular season titles, only to fall in consecutive championship matches to FCKC—but this time around, the Reign did the little things on both ends of the pitch to log a second straight win.

“I thought it was very ‘Reign – Kansas,’” said Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey. “It was very tactical and edgy. I said to the girls that every game we play against them is pretty much like that. There’s limited chances and it could come down to mistakes or a bit of brilliance. Thankfully today, Kim’s bit of brilliance won us the game.”

As Harvey described, the match was a beautiful technical display that saw the Seattle club hold just a 5-4 shot advantage. Yael Averbuch provided the biggest scare of the afternoon late in the first half. The Kansas City midfielder launched it from deep outside of the box and it deflected off a Seattle defender. That deflection sent it bouncing awkwardly toward the frame, but Hope stayed calm and redirected the dangerous bounce over the crossbar.

Hope was spurred into action once again by Averbuch in the second half. The 29-year-old sent a free kick hard in the direction of No. 1, but Hope was in strong position, guarding the near post. The ball curved wide and safely into the side net.

With Hope keeping the slate clean, Little and Menon Melis continued their strong seasons for the Seattle attack. Melis nearly notched the game’s first goal early in the second half. The first-year Reign forward broke away down the right side, but her shot found the side netting to keep the game tied at zero. However, it didn’t take long for her and Little to link up for the game-winner.

Nine minutes later, Melis collected a Merritt Mathias cross just outside of the box. Melis then chipped it softly into a small pocket in the KC defense, where it found Little. Seattle’s opportunistic midfielder settled the ball and beat a Kansas City defender with one touch, then drove it back into the corner of the net with a second. Together, Little and Melis have combined for three of Seattle’s five goals and five assists this season.

“Kim just does things under pressure – and now, she’s doing them so deep because of the position that she’s playing – where you just stand there in awe, really,” Harvey said.

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With six points, the Reign (2-1-0) are tied for third in the NSWL standings with the Chicago Red Stars (2-1-0). They are just behind the Portland Thorns (2-0-1) at seven points, while the Washington Spirit (3-0-0) still lead as the league’s only undefeated team at a perfect nine points.

[Get official gear at Hope’s store now! Head to store.hopesolo.com.]

Seattle has allowed only two goals through three games. Thanks to back-to-back shutouts, Hope is tied with Portland’s Michelle Betos for second in the league in goals allowed (2). Washington’s Stephanie Labbe leads with only one tally against her on the year.

Reign FC returns to action next Sunday, May 8, for its first ever meeting with the NSWL’s newest expansion team, the Orlando Pride. Led by USWNT star Alex Morgan, the Pride are 1-2-0 on the year. The win came over the Houston Dash, while the defeats came at the hands of Portland and Chicago. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. PT from Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

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