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Reign, Sky Blue trade penalties in 1-1 draw

Mandy Freeman and Lindsay Elston battle for possession in Seattle and Sky Blue's 1-1 draw. (photo by Jane Gershovich, ISI Photo)

Mandy Freeman and Lindsay Elston battle for possession in Seattle and Sky Blue’s 1-1 draw. (photo by Jane Gershovich, ISI Photo)

The Reign and Sky Blue traded penalty kicks around the hour mark on their way to a season-opening, 1-1 draw at Memorial Stadium. It marked the second straight season the Reign opened at home by failing to beat Sky Blue. A year ago, the New Jersey club started six rookies in a shock, 2-1 victory. This time around a mature away side carried more of the play and may have had the full three points if not for a stellar performance out of Reign keeper Haley Kopmeyer.

Both teams played, measured, tactical soccer but it was Sky Blue that created the higher quantity of credible chances through the creative smarts of Kelley O’Hara and Samantha Kerr at the striker positions. Sky Blue also got the better of a Reign midfield still trying to acclimate itself from the loss of Kim Little to Arsenal and Keelin Winters to retirement.

The first goal went to the home side after Megan Rapinoe won a penalty by dribbling the ball away from and wide of goal and was fouled by Erica Skroski. Rapinoe took the kick herself, freezing rookie Kailen Sheridan in her tracks and pounding it home just to the keeper’s left.

Minutes later, Kerr had acres of space down the right side and delivered a far-post cross to O’Hara who was dragged down by Merritt Mathias. That put Sky Blue on the spot and Sarah Killion stepped up and barely eluded the outstretched arm of Kopmeyer who correctly went low to her right.

Kopmeyer made several quality saves down the stretch to preserve the draw and the Reign nearly got one themselves on a Merritt Mathias header deep in the area in the 90th minute.

The Reign (0-0-1, 1 pt) are back at Memorial next Saturday to host the Dash against whom they are a perfect 7-0-0 all-time. Sky Blue (0-0-1, 1 pt) are in Boston on Sunday and are the only team who will not have played at home by the end of next weekend. Their home opener is April 30 against FC Kansas City.

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