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Sounders Women top Colorado Rush 2-1 in home opener

TUKWILA, Wash. — In a possible Western Conference playoff preview, the Seattle Sounders Women beat the Colorado Rush 2-1 on Thursday with all seven national team players starting for the Sounders.

Mexico’s Veronica Perez scored the second goal, the United States’ Sydney Leroux got an assist on the first, and fellow Americans Megan Rapinoe, Keelin Winters, Stephanie Cox, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo all played their first regular-season games in front of a sellout home crowd of 4,500 at Starfire Stadium.

The game may have been billed as a potential blowout before kickoff because of the number of World Cup veterans on the home side, but the Sounders ended up winning narrowly.

“I’m letting out a huge sigh of relief. That was a little bit scary,” Seattle head coach Michelle French said after the game. “That (Colorado) is one of the best teams I’ve seen play in the W-League.”

The game was fairly even in the first 10 minutes, as both teams tried to find some midfield possession, but the Sounders took control soon after and had several goal-scoring opportunities in quick succession.

Seattle took the lead in the 18th minute. Leroux dribbled through the left side of the Rush defense and played a ball across to Megan Manthey, who tapped it in from just a couple yards out.

Lindsey Horan almost answered just three minutes later for Colorado. She hit a free kick off the crossbar from 20 yards out.

Rapinoe was left impressed by Colorado’s No. 10 after the game.

“She’s a hell of a player,” Rapinoe said. “She’s the kind of player that we’ll face during the Olympics.”

As the first half wore on, the Rush had chances to score, mostly from the feet of forward Danica Evans. Most notably, in the 41st minute, Evans took a shot from distance that looped over Hope Solo’s head.

The national team goalkeeper was up to the task, though. She extended backward and to her left to push the ball into the crossbar.

Perez extended Seattle’s lead just after the start of the second half. On her second free kick of the night, she curled a shot inside goalkeeper Dayle Colpitts’ left post. Her effort in the first half bounced just wide from a similar distance and angle.

With that goal, Perez continued her one goal per game scoring pace that started in preseason. She has been a consistent offensive force for the Sounders.

“I haven’t (been on a run like this in a while), so it feels kind of good,” Perez said. “As long as we keep winning and playing well, then I’m happy.”

Colorado pulled a goal back against the run of play in the 61st minute. After Brittany Bock hit the crossbar from about 30 yards out, Horan scored on a diving header on the rebound.

A short spell of Rush pressure ensued, but after the Sounders defenders cleared a ball out of the six-yard box and Hope Solo came off her line to catch a corner kick in the 63rd minute, it subsided.

“It’s just showing that we have a little bit of resiliency. We’ve got players that have played in pretty high-level games, so they understand the intensity,” French said of her team’s ability to regain control of the game after conceding.

Still, Colorado proved it was a force to be reckoned with.

“They were very physical,” Perez said. “They were tall and strong and bigger than me, but if we play (the ball) quickly, we’ll be fine.”

The crossbar on both goals also got a workout, keeping out multiple chances.

“I walk out of here feeling like it should have been 6-5,” French said. “The level of play has gotten so much better that if you make one mistake — if you don’t track a runner — you’re going to get punished for it. Tonight, the crossbar was a little bit too big for everybody.”

Solo wasn’t making excuses for what she saw as a below-average defensive performance by the Sounders. However, the World Cup Golden Glove winner said most of those problems will be solved as the team gets farther into the season.

“We definitely have some cracks in our defense that we need to work on. We need to clean it up,” she said. “No team should hit the goalpost that often as long as we’re doing our job defensively. That’s unfortunate, but it’s early in the season, and we have some things to work on.”

With the win, the Sounders (2-0) go to third place in the W-League Western Conference, while the Rush (3-1) stay tied for first place with the Pali Blues (3-0).

The Sounders Women will be in action again Friday, as they travel to Victoria, B.C., to play the Victoria Highlanders (1-3).

Notes:

  • Statistics — Shots: Seattle 25 (Alex Morgan 7), Colorado 6 (Horan 4). Saves: Colorado 11 (Colpitts 11), Seattle 4 (Solo 3). Fouls: Colorado 11 (Kellyn Farrell 4), Seattle 4 (Winters 2). Offsides: Colorado 2, Seattle 0. Corner kicks: Seattle 8, Colorado 3.
  • Morgan led all players with seven shots in the game, but she didn’t manage to get on the score sheet. She was not without her chances, though. Morgan pulled a shot wide from a bad angle in the 22nd minute, and she was denied twice in quick succession by Colpitts in the 53rd and 56th minutes.
  • Rapinoe said after the game that the U.S. national team players will not play against Victoria on Friday. They will be available for the Sounders’ next home game, Monday against the Colorado Rapids Women, before leaving Tuesday for a national team camp.

Liviu Bird covers the Seattle Sounders Women for Equalizer Soccer. Follow him on Twitter at @liviubird.

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