Seattle Reign FC returned to the win column in a big way with a 5-0 smashing of Portland Thorns FC that keeps them 9 points clear of FC Kansas City at the top of the NWSL table. Already assured of hosting a semifinal match, the Reign can now secure the regular season championship with a draw away to FC Kansas City next Saturday. The match was played before 5,957 at Memorial Stadium in downtown Seattle.
The first match between the Pacific Northwest rivals was a tense battle that saw the Reign score the only goal in the 90th minute to win in Portland. This time an early mistake by the Thorns put the Reign on top in the 3rd minute and the well-rested hosts never looked back against a Thorns side who had to wait out a rain delay and play deep into Wednesday night a coast away in Washington. Beverly Goebel played it to Sydney Leroux who streaked down the left side. Leroux tried an off-angle shot that somehow beat Nadine Angerer to the near post and rolled across the line for the goal.
The Thorns remained in with a fighting chance until the few minutes that bookended halftime. In the 39th the Thorns won a throw-in that snapped a lengthy stretch of Reign possession. But Stephanie Cox jumped the throw-in and gave it to Kim Little. The ensuing cross was perfect for Nahomi Kawasumi who beat Angerer with a flying header to make it 2-0. Paul Riley made a bold halftime substitution by bringing on Jess McDonald in place on Rachel Van Hollebeke. But the only 2nd half offense came courtesy of the Reign.
Less than three minutes in the Thorns back line was left exposed when Stephanie Catley cut inside with the ball and lost it and the Reign started a perfect counter into Catley’s left side. The ball eventually went to the other side where Little returned it to Kawasumi for their second connection on the night. 3-0. Megan Rapinoe came into the match at 55 minutes, and while injuries have limited her minutes this season, they have not made her less effective when she has been on the pitch. This time it took Rapinoe two minutes to score. With the Thorns’ defense stretched, Kawasumi got in on the crossing action with a ball whipped from right to left and found Rapinoe’s head unmarked and she buried it high over Angerer to make it 4-0 before an hour was played.
The Thorns raised the red flag when Riley took Alex Morgan off with less than 10 minutes to play, and a deflated looking defense allowed Little to turn in the box and score her 12th goal of the season in stoppage time. The goal lifted Little out of a four-way tie for the league lead and left McDonald, Amy Rodriguez, Jodie Taylor behind with 11.
The Reign (14-1-4, 43 pts) next visit the Houston Dash Wednesday night on ESPN3. The Thorns (8-7-6, 30 pts) remain 3rd but now conceded a match in hand to the chasing Spirit and Red Stars. They also lost their entire goal difference edge on the Red Stars who they split the season series with. The Thorns get the midweek off and next host the Houston Dash on ESPN2 on Sunday, August 3.
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