Seattle Reign FC clinched the 2014 NWSL regular season title over two weeks in advance by beating the Houston Dash, 4-1, on Wednesday at BBVA Compass in Houston.
Kim Little scored twice and now leads the league with 14 goals. Her first tally of the night ended up being the game-winner that clinched first place for Seattle (15-1-4, 49 pts.). Fourteen goals is a new NWSL record for goals in a single season, breaking the old record of 12 held by FC Kansas City’s Lauren Holiday, who won the 2013 golden boot and MVP award.
Little’s first goal came in the 26th minute, when the Scottish international had a sublime trap of Jessica Fishlock’s chip that brought Little away from pressure and allowed her to calmly tuck the ball into the back of the net. Little’s second goal of the night came in the 78th minute, beating Dash goalkeeper Erin McLeod from close range.
Sydney Leroux opened the scoring for Seattle less than 90 seconds into the match, collecting a loose ball from six yards out after Little’s shot pinballed off of Houston defenders.
Dash midfielder Becky Edwards twice had her headers of Stephanie Ochs’ corner kicks — Houston’s best chances of the evening — saved on the line. Edwards’ first header, in the 28th minute, was the home side’s best opportunity of the first half. Her low header hit off both of Hope Solo’s legs, but the Seattle goalkeeper fell on the ball to prevent it from crossing the line.
Edwards again connected on Ochs’ corner kick midway through the second half, only to see Kiersten Dallstream clear the ball off the line at the far post.
Dash rookie Kealia Ohai was dangerous throughout the match, and she gave the home crowd something to cheer for in the 55th minute. Ohai rounded the corner and caught Solo cheating at the near post, slotting the ball into a small opening to temporarily cut Seattle’s lead to 3-1.
Megan Rapinoe had just extended Seattle’s lead, scoring on a long, left-footed shot that looked to be intended as a cross. The ball floated over McLeod and into the side netting. Little’s second goal in the 78th minute sealed the match for the Reign.
Seattle’s win, combined with FC Kansas City’s loss earlier in the evening, clinched first place for the Reign, earning them the NWSL Shield and home-field advantage throughout the NWSL playoffs. The two teams play on Saturday in Kansas City in a meeting of first vs. second.
Seattle captain Keelin Winters was shown a yellow card in the 85th minute for continuing to encroach on a corner kick. The yellow card was Winters’ fifth of the season, meaning she will miss Saturday’s match against FC Kansas City to serve an automatic one-game suspension.
The match also marked the first time ever that the NWSL utilized cooling break procedures, which were officially announced earlier in the day. Play stopped in the 30th and 75th minutes for water, with daytime temperatures on Wednesday in Houston soaring to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
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