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Rapinoe Hat Trick Helps Seattle Hang On

It’s not often you lose a 4-0 lead and still win the game. But that is exactly what the Seattle Reign FC managed to do in Saturday night’s 5-4 victory against visiting Sky Blue FC. The resulting three points moved Seattle (6-3-6) up a spot to fourth place in the National Women’s Soccer League—the top four at the end of the regular season advance to playoffs.

All signs pointed to a competitive match as the teams’ head-to-head record entering the contest was 3-3-5; and their previous meeting—in April—ended in a 1-1 tie. But no one could have predicted the unfolding of events that occurred in front of 4,464 fans at Memorial Stadium.

A well-played first half ended with Seattle leading 1-0 after U.S. Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe bent a free kick from distance inside the far post in the 27th minute. But three goals in the first 11 minutes of the second half—a penalty kick by Rapinoe, Beverly Yanez’s excellent finish on the assist from Nahomi Kawasumi and an own goal by Sky Blue defender Erica Skroski on a Rapinoe cross—put the Reign ahead 4-0 and in seeming control.

But momentum is a fickle matter and can change quite quickly—and unexpectedly. And Sky Blue has scored 10 goals in the last 15 minutes of games this season—coach Christy Holly has attributed his team’s reputation for comebacks on its heart and unwillingness to fold even under the heaviest of pressure.

USWNT defender Kelley O’Hara buried a penalty kick awarded in the 60th minute, to open up scoring for Sky Blue, though Seattle still seemed to be rather in control of Saturday’s outcome. But by the 76th minute—after goals from Leah Galton, Daphne Corboz and Samantha Kerr—the game was tied, 4-4.

Rapinoe’s league-best 12th goal of the season—scored in the 87th minute—was the game winner.

The teams shared about equal possession Saturday, though New Jersey outshot Seattle 31-11, with 12 of those attempts on target. Four of the Reign’s shots were on target, but that’s all they needed. Sky Blue (7-7-2) fell from third to fifth place in the race to playoffs but is still in good position, trailing Seattle by only one point.

Seattle will travel to North Carolina Aug. 5 while Sky Blue is scheduled to host the Washington Spirit Aug. 4.

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