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FC Kansas City ends the Seattle Reign’s playoff hopes in a 1-0 defeat

Seattle, Washington - Saturday, July 2nd, 2016: Seattle Reign FC forward Nahomi Kawasumi (36) during a regular season National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) match between the Seattle Reign FC and the Boston Breakers at Memorial Stadium. Seattle won 2-0. (ISI Photo)

The Seattle Reign needed to win all three points in Sunday night’s showdown against their long-standing foe FC Kansas City in order to hold off the Orlando Pride for another week and keep their dream of the 2017 NWSL playoffs alive. However, at the end of 90 minutes it was the FCKC Blues that played ultimate spoiler, handing the Reign their third straight loss at Memorial Stadium in a 1-0 defeat that saw Sydney Leroux combine with Shea Groom to create the lone goal that would stand as the difference.

The match started decidedly in Seattle’s favor, with the home team dominating possession and pressuring Kansas City early behind the strong play of Rebekah Stott and Rumi Utsugi. However, FCKC didn’t let themselves get pulled out of shape, and their center-back tandem of Becky Sauerbrunn and Yael Averbuch looked calm and in control for much of the match.

Despite Seattle’s dominance in the early minutes, it was FC Kansas City that struck home first, when in the 23rd minute Sydney Leroux possessed the ball against the run of play just outside the penalty box, and threaded the ball through three Reign defenders to put it squarely in front of forward Shea Groom, who hit a shot expertly at a tough angle to slot the ball far post and behind keeper Lydia Williams to put the visitors up 1-0.

After the goal Seattle started pushing forward more overtly,  which ended up allowing FC Kansas City a little bit more space to control the pace of the game, and FCKC responded with some end-to-end pressure that resulted in decent looks from both sides, though neither team ended up with another shot on target. The half would end up with the 1-0 favoring FC Kansas City, and Seattle went into the break needing at least 2 more goals to get the job done.

The second half of the match had very little by way of offensive fireworks, with the Reign being rendered somewhat predictable in the final third by FCKC’s impressive positioning (Becky Sauerbrunn in particular had one of her strongest games of the season, and was rewarded with a couple of tough fouls against her as the second half went on). Rebekah Stott did her best to draw her squad level in the 51st minute but her shot rang off the crossbar. And despite making a substitute in the 61st minute to bring forward Katie Johnson on for midfielder Christine Nairn in an attempt to get further numbers forward, the Reign couldn’t turn their possession in front of the Kansas City goal into significantly dangerous shots.

The 78th minute of the match also saw Elli Reed get subbed in for Seattle, replacing Stott. This was Reed’s final home game for the Reign after announcing her intent to retire at the end of the season. Reed worked hard to find the equalizer, but the final shot just wasn’t there for the Reign.

The match would ultimately stand with the 1-0 scoreline, sinking Seattle’s playoff hopes and allowing the Orlando Pride to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot. This sets up a final regular season weekend with two possible playoff previews, as the Pride take on the NC Courage and the Chicago Red Stars visit the Portland Thorns. Seattle will end their season against the Washington Spirit, and FC Kansas City will close out the year against the Houston Dash.

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