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Little’s late goal prevents Spirit from clinching

Kim Little came off the bench on Saturday to score her 16th goal of the season and help Seattle Reign FC tie the Washington Spirit, 1-1 at Memorial Stadium, preventing the Spirit from clinching an NWSL playoff spot this weekend.

Washington could have clinched a playoff berth with a victory, and the Spirit looked headed that way until Little’s 89th minute goal.

Diana Matheson put the visitors ahead in the 29th minute, beating Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo at the far post. Matheson stole the ball around midfield and played it to Jodie Taylor, who played it back to a streaking Matheson for the finish from 15 yards out.

“We were just disappointed tonight I think, just in our performance in general,” Seattle coach Laura Harvey said. “We’re just disappointed with how we didn’t impose ourselves on the game.”

The Reign switched on in the final 10 minutes of the match, first with a Megan Rapinoe free kick that skipped outside of the post in the 81st minute. Three minutes later, Nahomi Kawasumi found Rapinoe at the far post, and the U.S. midfielder one-time volleyed the cross just wide of the net.

But Little found the breakthrough in the 89th minute, 21 minutes after entering the match. The goal puts her three clear of FC Kansas City striker Amy Rodriguez’s 13 goals and likely further cements Little’s place as league MVP.

Harvey was forced to make an early change when defender Kendall Fletcher felt tightness in her previously injured hamstring. Elli Reed replaced Fletcher in the 11th minute. Little and Kawasumi also came in off the bench in the second half as Harvey tried to give some of her starters a rest.

Seattle finishes its regular-season home schedule unbeaten (8-0-4). Seattle will host a league semifinal on August 24 against the fourth-place finisher. The Reign finish the regular season with a trip to rivals Portland next Sunday. The Thorns are still locked into a playoff race and are yet to clinch a spot in the postseason.

But Portland currently sits in fourth place, meaning the Thorns could be Seattle’s semifinal opponent. That makes the regular season finale interesting.

“If we truly believe we are going to play them a week later, than it’s about not showing your cards too early,” Harvey said postgame.


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