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The Lowdown: Harvey says Reign ‘close to being a good team’

Laura Harvey, Seattle Reign FC
Laura Harvey, Seattle Reign FC

Laura Harvey and Seattle Reign FC have dropped eight straight matches and sit last in NWSL. (Photo copyright Patricia Giobetti | http://www.printroom.com/pro/psgiobetti)

It was a moment that defined Seattle Reign FC’s poor start to their inaugural season.  Hope Solo, by all accounts the Reign’s best player, failing to adequately cover the near post on a half shot, half cross by Erika Tymrak.

What should have been an easily thwarted attack turned into the extension of a spring-long nightmare in the Emerald City.  Instead of making the catch, Solo awkwardly threw her hands up and appeared to deflect the ball off the post and then back off her hands and in.  The goal stood up as the only score on the night.  The 1-0 loss dropped the Reign to 0-8-1 with eight straight losses following a season-opening draw in Chicago.

At full time, Blues coach Vlatko Andonovski acknowledged to Harvey that the best team on the night did not emerge with the victory.  It was some small but definitive solace for a coach trying desperately to turn her team’s season around.

“We played well (Sunday) night,” Harvey said.  “There have not been many games where I think we’ve performed poorly and been completely outplayed by teams.  Maybe (the last two matches) we’ve potentially outplayed the opposition but haven’t got the results that the performance deserved.  But I don’t make excuses for that.”

The Reign have indeed played their best over the last two matches which, coincidentally or otherwise, are the two games Solo has played after missing the first part of the season following wrist surgery.  They lost both games, one on a controversial penalty call and then Sunday on Solo’s misplay.  But for Harvey the stories of those games are not the goals conceded but rather the lack of goals going in on the other end.

“We shouldn’t be relying on the fact that we don’t want anyone on our backline or goalkeeper or any player to make a mistake which then affects the result,” Harvey said.  “We should be scoring goals.  Then that mistake doesn’t matter.  We win that game 2-1.

“We have to take responsibility for the fact that we don’t create enough opportunities in the 18-yard box and that’s why we didn’t win the game – not because of a mistake by our goalkeeper.”

Statistics back up Harvey’s assertion.  The Reign have scored in only three of nine games, totaling four goals.  Sunday was the third consecutive time they have been shut out, and it is already their second streak of being blanked in that many consecutive tilts.

“We’re just not clinical,” Harvey said.  “We just don’t have at the moment someone who stands out as a pure goal scorer.”  Harvey referenced Kansas City’s Renae Cuellar as a player who can take minimal touches across 90 minutes but still find a way to score.  “We just don’t have that type of player.  We have to work really hard for the goals that we score.”

Despite nine matches and no wins in a season that will be two months old on Thursday, Harvey does believe her club is improving, and she is pleasantly surprised at the team’s collective spirit even as they search for an elusive win.

“If we weren’t making strides forward I think the morale would be a little bit lower.  But I think we think that we’re gradually getting better.  We are also aware that it is not good enough.  In fairness to all the players, they accept that and they are accountable to that.  They come to training every day and work really hard to try to change it.  From a coach’s point of view you really can’t ask for more than that.”

If the addition of Solo helped fortify things in the back, there is also midfield help coming in the form of Megan Rapinoe.  But Harvey cautions that Rapinoe had a long campaign in France and says she will be worked in slowly when she joins the side following national team friendlies over the next two weeks.

However much she plays, Rapinoe can only help any team’s attacking fortunes.  However, she is known more for her play in midfield and service into dangerous areas than as a straight goal scorer.

“We’ve got to try to find the right mixture of talent that we have in the group to go on the field and work together,” Harvey said.  “I think in recent games we’ve maybe got that right in the backline and we’ve got that right in midfield.  We’ve just got to get that right up front now.

“One game it will change.  When that happens our season will have a full circle.  Because we’re very close to being a good team but until we get that win it just seems further and further away at times.”

Where are the goals coming from

Throughout the season The Lowdown will track where the goals are coming from in terms of the different levels of roster building.  Week 9 gave us the busiest game of the season when the Thorns and Blues combined to nail seven.  And Erika Tymrak joined top two picks Zakiya Bywaters and Tiffany McCarty as players from the college draft with multiple goals. Here’s how the goals break down with Week 9 totals in parenthesis:

Allocated players – 46 (8)
United States – 26 (7); Canada – 15 (1); Mexico – 5
College Draft – 7 (2)
Free Agent – 23 (4)
Supplemental Draft – 8
Discovery et al. 6 (2)
Own Goals – 1

Note:  Free Agent refers to any player signed during the free agent window immediately following the college draft; Discovery includes any player acquired through means not included in any other category

Free Kicks

– The Reign will play without Jessica Fishlock this weekend in Portland and Harvey said Kate Deines could get a start in midfield.  Deines had been a center back until being injured and returned to play 35 minutes off the bench as a midfielder on Sunday.

– Harvey said Michelle Betos and Haley Kopmeyer are competing through the week in training to see who will start for Solo on Sunday.  Solo is returning to the U.S. national team for the first time since her surgery.

– Spirit coach Mike Jorden assures The Lowdown his team is still in NWSL even after having the last two weeks off.  “I think it came at a good time for us,” Jorden said of the break.  “We’ve been able to work on bits and pieces that we haven’t been able to work on in training.  At the same time we had our Canadians and (Ali) Krieger and Ashlyn (Harris) away so we basically had most of the younger players to work with.  We’ve been working for two weeks straight.  I’ve been working them hard.”  The Spirit are 1-4-3 and resume their season Saturday night against the Flash.

– A request to the Professional Referee Organization to review and comment on Sydney Leroux’s non-goal in Chicago on Sunday was not answered as of the end of business Monday.  The league office declined to comment on the overall state of refereeing in NWSL through nine weeks.  At least one coach told The Lowdown that players and coaches need to play a role in helping the officials do a better job.

– Not talked about as much, and it’s tough to say with 100 percent certainty, but it sure looked like Abby Wambach was offsides when she took the ball that led to her 4th minute assist to Samantha Kerr on Saturday at Sky Blue.

– The Flash have released Kim Yokers due to medical reasons. No further details were provided.

– Jordan defeated Uzbekistan 4-0 to advance to the Asian Cup and keep hope alive for a trip to the World Cup.  Thailand, Vietnam, and Myanmar had previously advanced to the 2014 Asian Cup, where they will be joined by Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea.  The top five finishers will represent Asia at Canada 2015.

– As goal line clearances go, they don’t get much better than Reign FC’s Lauren Barnes’ effort to clear Lauren Cheney’s first-half chip on Sunday.  What made it so difficult was that Barnes was chasing the ball towards the goal and easily could have put it in just by making contact with it.

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