Kim Little transfers back to Arsenal Ladies

For three seasons Seattle Reign FC has had continuity in the central midfield in the form of the trio of Jessica Fishlock, Keelin Winters, and Kim Little. With few exceptions, Seattle coach Laura Harvey has been able to start said trio knowing Reign FC would be able to defend, attack, counter, and recover with consistency.

Keelin Winters announced her retirement late in the 2016 season. Some changes were coming. Today, the Reign FC and Arsenal Ladies announced the Kim Little was returning to England and her former side.

 

DSC08578Little leaves the NWSL and the Reign as both the league and franchise leading scorer with 34 goals. Seattle grabbed two NWSL Shields and played in two NWSL finals with Little, where she also was voted the league MVP in 2014.

Seattle now faces an off-season with much more on field uncertainty than in the past few seasons. Harvey has been able to play a reasonably consistent line up for a few seasons; returning the bulk of her starters from 2014-16. There are options already on the roster, however.

Beverly Yanez has shown good form when in the midfield attacking role in parts of 2016. Although her early Reign career was primarily at striker, 2016 especially saw her moving about into different spots and playing well.

Havana Solaun got minutes early in the season with Fishlock injured and showed definite promise. After sitting out a full season previously, Solaun got an opportunity with the US U23s and in the Seattle midfield.

The Seattle roster still lists attacking options like Naho Kawasumi and Manon Melis as well as having Merritt Mathias capable of stepping into many different roles. Could a player like Lindsay Elston step up into the Winters role? What will a fully healthy and full season from Megan Rapinoe potentially bring? Losing the quality of a Kim Little hurts, but Seattle has roster depth going into the off-season. Seattle has not shown a shyness to make moves, having brought back Naho in mid-season in 2016.

Losing the BBC World Footballer of the Year Kim Little is no small thing. It’s October, but the NWSL off-season just got very interesting in Seattle.

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Arsenal pays a visit to Seattle

Seattle Reign FC 1
Arsenal Ladies FC 1
International Friendly – May 26, 2016
Memorial Stadium – Seattle, WA

 

Seattle Reign FC began the 2015 slowly. An early season international match with China was played to a 1-1 draw and coincided with the side getting their collective feet under them and making a long run towards a 2nd consecutive NWSL Shield.

Arsenal Ladies FC visited Seattle this week. After enjoying what the city had to offer in the way of Pike Place Market and other landmarks, the Gunners took to the Memorial Stadium pitch and showed their quality and why they recently won the Women’s FA Cup in front of a record English crowd.

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Mid-season friendlies are potentially both an opportunity and a problem for a team. For Seattle and Laura Harvey, it was an opportunity to get back on the pitch only a few days after a disappointing home loss to Chicago Red Stars. It was also an opportunity to get 90 minutes to her depth and regular subs like Lindsay Elston, Havana Solaun, and Paige Nielsen while getting a full half a match to a few players further down the bench.

 

Both most recent BBC Footballer of the Year recipients saw action during this match, with Arsenal’s 2015 recipient Asisat Oshoala and Seattle’s 2016 winner Kim Little each seeing about a half of action.

 

For two teams who had never met there was an interesting history or connection between them. Players had met before on different teams and in internationals, but specifically that Reign FC coach Harvey and midfielder Little both having won trophies during their tenures at the London club.

 

Number 17 scored in the 17th for Seattle. Bev Yanez struck a top of the box shot into the upper corner to get the scoring underway, showing the form she has maintained over the past few seasons.

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Even with a block of subs available to each coach the game did not suffer from a lack of continuity. Harvey chose to use her subs in a block, other than the 30th minute substitution of Jessica Fishlock. Fishlock, only a month removed from a fractured leg, started and seemed her usual self. The 30 minutes was according to plan and Fishlock seemed pleased with how it went after the match.

 

The PK in the second half was a reasonable call. Although not a hard foul, there was clear contact and Arsenal converted, tying the match. Both sides pushed for a win down the stretch, and the friendly ended up with a 2nd half yellow issued to each side.

 

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There has been internet chatter about a Women’s Club World Cup like is played in December in the men’s game. After watching two sides that could be a part of something like that play an international friendly in Seattle FIFA needs to get to work on it.

For Arsenal, the trip to Seattle is followed up by an international break and some time to get ready for their next match.

For Seattle, Portland beckons on Sunday the 29th with important points available in a match with many internationals missing.

 

 

Cascadia is thriving

May 14, 2016
Seattle Reign FC 1 – Portland Thorns FC 1
Memorial Stadium Seattle, WA
NWSL Regular Season

It was not that long ago that the Cascadia Derby between Seattle and Portland was a USL First Division match between the Sounders and the Timbers. In 2016, it is not only those teams in MLS, but the women’s pro game bringing passion to the stands. Two bus loads of Rose City Riveters arrived clad in red and positioned themselves across the Reign supporters groups. Seattle drums competed across the pitch with the Portland chants while their beloved Reign and Thorns competed on the pitch.

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The first half saw both sides getting some chances, but physical play with every ball being challenged kept both sides off the board early. The turf got a victim in the the 4th minute when Manon Melis had to come off due to a nasty looking knee injury. Carson Pickett came on into an attacking role, switching Kiersten Dallstream to the right side opposite Meghan Klingenberg and setting up a game long battle between the two number 25’s.

However, the scoreless first half quickly changed in the 2nd half. Portland got an opportunistic goal from Nadia Nadim in the 46th when she out jumped Reign keeper Hope Solo over Reign defender Lauren Barnes, stunning the crowd. Seattle bounced right back with Bev Yanez tying the match in the 49th with a powerful header on a Barnes corner. Suddenly, it was a 1-1 thriller.

Christine Sinclair made her 2106 season debut in the 56th. With Tobin Heath missing on a red card the Thorns were looking for some veteran presence as the match moved into the final third. With both Sinclair and Dagny Brynjarsdottir on the pitch the Thorns had a 15 minute significant height advantage up top, but a more defensive substitution took away their brief twin towers.  Less direct play followed.

The game continued to be physical on both sides, with Seattle captain Keelin Winters going down in the 62nd. There were bodies on the ground several other times. The Seattle trainer was busy for a while. It wasn’t until the 87th minute when the referee finally reached into his pocket to book Lindsey Horan for a pull back on Little.

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Both teams pressed down the stretch. Kim Little nearly gave Seattle a lead late with a flick on to herself for a volley, but it went high.

Neither side nor coach seemed satisfied with the result post game, and there were some clear frustrations evident post match. One ended up getting fined for expressing that frustration.

Cascadia is thriving.

Seasons change and streaks end

Seattle Reign FC 1
Sky Blue FC 2
Seattle, WA – Memorial Stadium – April 17, 2016

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The Seattle Reign FC entered the 2016 with a two year unbeaten run on the home turf at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium. The team that came closest to ending that streak late in 2015 was Sky Blue FC. But for a Jess Fishlock header with 89:56 showing and stoppage time looming the streak would have ended. Instead, the streak continues into 2016 and is one of many storylines for the Reign FC in year 4 of the NWSL.

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The 2015 late season game saw Sky Blue grab an early goal a bit against the run of play and then almost hang on before a late equalizer. Natasha Kai’s 15th minute header slipped past the Reign defense and with it one-nil at the half, shades of deja vu were written all over this match. Hope Solo kept the Reign close with a penalty save in the 36th, drawing a yellow prior delaying the kick.

The second half kicked off with more pace and in the 52nd Seattle equalized as Little to Fishlock led to a ball across the goal and a Merritt Mathias header. Early second half pressure from the Reign had paid off, but Sky Blue never let the tying goal alter their approach.

Sky Blue showed commitment to pressure and effort in spite of less possession and gathered a weak Reign defensive clearance to get it to 2-1 with a goal by Kelly Conheeney in the 68th wide open at the far post.

Pressure on the ball throughout the match put Sky Blue into a number of good positions in spite of Seattle possession. Sky Blue played composed high pressure defense throughout, making up for relatively less experience on the field with smart hustle and opportunistic finishing. Leadership in the defensive end by Christie Rampone and dangerous runs by Kelly O’Hara were difference makers in the match.

For the Reign, the streak is over. For Sky Blue FC a hard earned win to open season four.

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2015 in Seattle gave local soccer supporters an opportunity to watch three amazing streaks continue.

In August at the 89:56 mark just as stoppage time would begin, it was Jess Fishlock off of nice Kim Little cross. The Reign FC two season home unbeaten run was safe.

In October, late in the USA v Brazil friendly in Seattle it was Carli Lloyd from Meghan Klingenberg. The USWNT home unbeaten streak would last after all.

In November, the UW scored first, but WSU rallied and took a 3-1 victory. WSU sustained its 12 year run over its cross state rivals.

Three impressive streaks. A few months later and only one of them continues.

 

The streaks were of completely different types.  The Reign had stormed through two seasons of top tier league play.  The USA had played a mix of various qualifiers and friendlies over a several year period.  The college rivalry is annual with players turning over in eligibility cycles. The opportunities for these streaks to continue and what they represent is different. It will be several months before the next opportunity for the UW to end that streak.

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Goalkeeper Guys – This is Jeff

I am Jeffrey Lageson and I write the Coach’s Corner pieces for GoalkeeperGuys.net and ProstAmerika.com, covering the Seattle Reign FC, USWNT, and often the occasional other match like when WSU plays UW.

To provide a little background I have been a lifelong soccer player, supporter, coach, occasional ref, and soccer writer since 1974.45958_10150253613580311_4129818_n

I began playing goalie in my second year of youth soccer for The Wildebeests. We kicked serious butt.

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I mostly played keeper growing up, lettering at Mountlake Terrace High School.

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It was a different era back in those days and I played for the club team at WSU.

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I began coaching after college, taking the opportunity to coach goalkeepers at North Central High School in Spokane and at my high school alma mater.  From there, I got the opportunity to coach goalkeepers at my college alma mater, returning to Pullman to be a part of the 1994 WSU Women’s Soccer program that made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 and a regular season ending #19 ranking.

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Over the years I have continued to coach youth soccer, including my daughter’s team and running summer camps at a local private school.

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And yes, I still play when I can.

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Photos courtesy WSU Athletics, Bob Keilin, and various family members.

Reign FC ready for NWSL season 4

Coach’s Corner

Seattle Reign FC enter NWSL Season 4 with trophies in the cabinet, a home field unbeaten streak of two full seasons, and much still to do. Two consecutive Shield wins have been tempered by two consecutive Cup Final one goal losses, leaving a sense of more to be done.

2016 is here with the Reign and the NWSL having new sponsorships like Microsoft on their kits, a TV deal with FS1 announced before the season, dealing with it being an Olympic year, USWNT legal drama, and new Nike kits all around.

The Reign bring back almost all of their starters from the past two seasons, but have new depth on their bench, a first round draft pick in Carson Pickett that looks ready to play right away, a new international Manon Melis, and very little disruption from only having two Olympians on the roster. With Megan Rapinoe still recovering from surgery, the possibility of her late season addition for another Shield and Cup Final run in is out there for fans to look forward to.

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The Reign cut through their preseason 4-0, defeating NWSL rivals and local college sides, only seeing two goals against in the four matches.

The returning Reign starters include internationals like Kim Little. Bev Yanez had a breakout year in 2015 and in the UW preseason match showed playmaking abilities when moved back into a midfield role. Several Reign players spent the offseason playing in Australia, so there could be some concern over year round play, but the August break could be the difference between a good run in at the end and burn out down the stretch.

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A healthy Havana Solaun added to the mix after missing what would have been her rookie season in 2015 is the sort of additional story line Reign fans can follow as 2016 unfolds.

The Reign open NWSL play at home against Sky Blue FC on Sunday April 17 at 4PM local time.

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