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Seattle, Kansas City end home-and-home series with 1-1 draw

For the second time in a week, the Seattle Reign FC (3-2-5, 14 points) and FC Kansas City (3-3-4, 13 points) battled to a draw. Tonight’s game ended with a level score after Brittany Ratcliffe and Nahomi Kawasumi scored for their respective teams to see each leave the night a point heavier.

However, tonight’s match was much unlike last weekend’s clash in Kansas City. Two of the most solid defenders in the league, Lauren Barnes and Becky Sauerbrunn, made rare mistakes that could have been extremely detrimental for their teams. Luckily for them, especially Barnes, the mistakes were not too costly, and both teams remain neck-and-neck just outside of playoff contention for the time being.

Seattle’s game plan had a pretty large wrench thrown into it in just the fourth minute when Reign co-captain Lauren Barnes was shown a red card and ejected from the game. In her attempts of stopping a run on goal, Barnes grabbed Shea Groom’s arm and pulled it behind her back before tackling the ball away and knocking Groom’s legs out from under her, both players tumbling to the pitch.

The ejection meant the Reign had to play almost the entire game a player down, and fellow co-captain Jess Fishlock dropped back onto the Reign backline to fill the defensive gap left by Barnes’ ejection. That meant Fishlock, whose quality of play often times dictates how well the rest of the team plays, was unable to lead the midfield where she is so dangerous.

The Reign’s change in formation and tactics didn’t slow them down very much though. Just minutes after play resumed, Lindsey Elston put a laser on goal from distance, causing FC Kansas City netminder Nicole Barnhart to hit the pitch to knock the shot wide of the far post.

Despite the solid attempt on goal by Elston, FCKC would strike first and just in the 16th minute. Yael Averbuch sent a through ball down the middle of the field, where Alexa Newfield gave it a backheel flick right to Brittany Ratcliffe’s feet. Ratcliffe split a pair of defenders to go 1v1 with Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer and sent a low shot to the inside of the far post, where it took a deflection to roll into the back of the net. Not only was the goal the first of the night, but it was also the first goal of Ratcliffe’s NWSL career.

Both teams continued in their physical back-and-forth as Seattle fought hard for an equalizer and FCKC tried to extend their lead. They nearly did just that just before the end of the first half when Brittany Taylor dribbled the ball from the right flank to the center of the pitch at the very top of the 18. There she sent a short pass to Newfield, who was unable to get over the ball. Having to take several small touches to maintain possession and to get the ball into shooting position, Newfield was slow to get off her shot, giving Kopmeyer an extra split second to see Newfield’s intent so she could make the save.

FC Kansas City went into the half with a one-goal lead, and they came out of halftime hungry for more. In the 49th minute, Groom nearly scored what would have been the game winner after receiving a pass from Sydney Leroux with space. Groom moved the ball to the top of the goal box before taking a shot, only to have last-second pressure from Fishlock cause her to send her shot just wide of the far post.

Seattle immediately countered with a shot on goal of their own, with Megan Rapinoe driving the ball down the field before firing off a hard shot towards Barnhart. Barnhart was able to make an impressive kick save to deny Rapinoe of the goal. Just a minute later, it was Fishlock’s turn to attempt the equalizer, nearly knocking in a Rapinoe corner kick, but FCKC’s Taylor made a goal-line stop before Leroux bicycle-kicked the ball out of danger.

Momentum had swung in Seattle’s favor, and they were clearly knocking on FCKC’s door. The Reign’s patience and tenacity were rewarded in the 58th minute when Nahomi Kawasumi capitalized on a play that started with a Becky Sauerbrunn error. Rapinoe sent a cross in front of goal, which Sauerbrunn attempted to head away. However, in a very un-Sauerbrunnlike move, she mishit the ball and sent it backwards towards goal, causing Barnhart to make a sprawling one-handed save to prevent the own goal. Barnhart’s save rolled back into the field of play and right to Kawasumi, who half-volleyed the deflection past Barnhart for the Seattle equalizer.

With a lot of time left on the clock, both teams continued fighting in search of a game winner, but neither team could find the back of the net again, and for the second time in two weeks, the teams walked away with a draw.

Both teams have a quick turnaround before their next matches, as both have midweek matches Wednesday night. FC Kansas City aren’t even returning home in the meantime, opting instead to travel to Portland tomorrow ahead of Wednesday night’s match against the Thorns. Seattle, on the other hand, remain at home at Memorial Stadium, where they take on the current no. 2 team in the league, the Chicago Red Stars.

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