Kawasumi, Reign Top Breakers 2:0

Two years ago, the Seattle Reign made a run for their first NWSL Shield on a remarkable undefeated skein which ran nearly the entire length of the season. Part of that roster was Japanese international Nahomi Kawasumi, then on loan from Kobe Leonessa.

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Nahomi Kawasumi sends her first of the match past a diving Jami Kranich.

The Reign match against the Boston Breakers on July 2 marked the return of ‘Naho’ to the Reign lineup – but this time, not on loan. It didn’t take long for her to display the form which contributed to her becoming a fan favourite, opening the scoring in the 15th minute by converting a Manon Melis cross which deflected off of Boston defender Kassey Kallman and slotting it past netminder Jami Kranich, who had little chance diving to her right.

The half would end with the score still at 1:0, but not without more Reign scoring chances. Jess Fishlock had one roll just wide in the 23rd, and Kim Little drilled a Kawasumi cross in the 43rd solidly off the corner of the frame.

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Boston goalkeeper Jami Kranich catches a chipped shot from Seattle’s Kim Little in front of the Scottish international.

Little’s pursuit of her 30th NWSL goal continues, with the Scottish star generating four solid scoring chances, but seeing none register on the scoreboard, with Kranich extending vertically to capture Little’s chip in the 54th minute.

Nine minutes later, Kawasumi would round out the scoring with her second of the night, converting a pass from Keelin Winters at the top of the box to provide the final margin of victory.

The Reign defense merits note as well, coming into the Boston match with a skein of four consecutive clean sheets, two each behind goalkeepers Hope Solo – now off in training camp with the US National Team – and Haley Kopmeyer.

Kopmeyer would register three saves on the night to earn the fifth in the skein of shutouts, leaving the Reign holders of a new league record and three minutes short of another for the longest time without conceding a goal.

Nahomi 'Naho' Kawasumi scores her second of the night.

Nahomi ‘Naho’ Kawasumi scores her second of the night.

Quick Thoughts: Portland Thorns FC 1: 1 Seattle Reign FC

Neither team left Memorial Stadium with the three points each hoped to earn in tonight’s match, but with the one apiece each probably deserved. It became the tale of two halves: the first marked by tentative play and with each side looking as if they were afraid to make the mistake which would put the opposition ahead; then the second, which started with a fire in the head of both teams which saw Portland’s Nadia Nadim opening the scoring seconds into the new half, only to be answered by Seattle’s Bev Yanez three minutes later.

It’s not an understatement to say that this is a rivalry game, and one between two teams which are building a not inconsiderable dislike for one another.

DSC09400Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” could have been the theme song for the second half hits reel, as the game took on the sort of physical tone more commonly associated with Western Hockey League matchups between the Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks, as Reign players were being knocked to the turf repeatedly – and with the match referee calling for immediate medical treatment on three incidents.

Surprisingly, only two yellow cards were produced, likely the result of two of the three most severe collisions being on 50-50 balls. Even so, the visitors where whistled for six fouls in the half.

Two sets of matchups stood out- the #16s on both side, defenders Emily Sonnett of Portland and Carson Pickett of Seattle, the latter of whom ended up slotting into a midfield position after the departure of Manon Melis in the fifth minute with an unidentified leg injury.

The other pair, the #25s, Portland and US Women’s National Team defender Megan Klingenberg and Seattle’s Kiersten Dallstream, getting the rare start at forward.DSC09235

More in a bit, as I have the time to sift through photos and figure out why Word Press is showing me white text on white backgrounds.Rebooting fixes everything, right?

Update, 17 May: OK, so rebooting doesn’t fix everything, but reinstalling WordPress fixed us.

Anatomy of a textbook save

Growing up, in youth sports and the like, we get taught the fundamentals. At a certain point, they stop being drilled every practice, just because it is assumed that they have become so ingrained in the player.

For those who may have discovered the game later, or who didn’t play the position, sometimes professionals manage to make something look completely routine. It’s probably worth investing a little time in breaking down the routine, because just because something looks simple doesn’t make it that way.

Thanks to burst-mode digital photography and a shooting perspective to the left of the goalkeeper not much above the six-yard box it’s possible to walk through a save Caroline Casey of Sky Blue made on Manon Melis of the Seattle Reign frame by frame.

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Our view starts two strides after Manon Melis has taken service on a ball switched to her from either Bev Yanez or Jess Fishlock. Merritt Mathias is making a far-post-run, but the defender (I believe Erica Skroski) is well positioned to deny the pass if Melis can even see Mathias. Casey makes the right decision to stand her ground and “make herself big.” Her alternative choice is to attack the ball, which leaves the opportunity that Melis will step around her and put the ball into an unprotected net or chip over her should she go to ground.

From Melis’ angle, she can likely see a little space short-side and a fraction far-side, particularly if she can get the ball up, but not far enough to miss the top corner. Casey has her squared well, and particularly with the angle of Melis’ shoulders, can expect to have the shot come either right at her or to her left.

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Melis makes a little adjustment in launching the shot, and drives it on frame. Casey adjusts by lowering her centre of mass while keeping her ‘wingspan’ wide.

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Sure enough, the shot comes right for her.

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Because of Melis’ momentum, Casey doesn’t have the chance to try to catch- her option is to put the ball somewhere safe. In this case, it spins out to her left, and safely crosses the touchline.

DSC06679 Never giving up on the play, she recovers her feet and focus while the returning left centre back peels off to pursue the ball- or more accurately, make certain that Melis doesn’t have a good angle to get to it.

If it looks simple, it largely is, particularly if the play is developing slowly. The six-frame sequence illustrated here, though transpired in between a third and a half-second- there isn’t time to think, just react, and it’s only experience which makes the difference. Some of us never succeeded in subduing the instinct to challenge the shooter here.

Seattle Reign 2016 Kit unveiling

The Goalkeeper Guys are live from Seattle’s Hard Rock Cafe for tonight’s kit unveiling. Stay tuned through the evening for updates and photos from the event.

 

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Luuuuuu Barnes, Smilin’ Bev Yanez, the back of HKop’s head, and MerrBear!

Oh, and there will be some BIG NEWS, but it’s too early to tell you.

5:38   The Predmores and Laura Harvey are taking a seat, so we may be close to getting started.

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And awaaaaay we go.
5:49  Unexpected big news broken by Bill Predmore. BEEEEEEER! Reign FC have found a way around the Seattle School Board ban on alcohol. Georgetown Brewing will be providing beer in a beer garden just outside the stadium.

5:50 The Austen Everett Foundation and Water 1st will be returning as community partners. If you’ve been following the team, Teresa Predmore, Lu Barnes, and Elli Reed spent some time in the off-season in Ethiopia raising awareness on how severely the lack of access to clean water has an adverse impact in parts of the world – and how disproportionately this falls on youmg girls.

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Kendall Fletcher with the Reign Royal Blue Piccolo Venetian, which will through the Legends Campaign recognize the contributions of women in the Pacific Northwest who have set an example of excellence at home and beyond.

The Reign Academy has also been accepted to the Elite Clubs National League – the top organization for the development of female soccer players in the country.

Misrosoft will be the new kit primary sponsor. We should get a look shortly.

 

Oh, my. Royal blue and platinum on the home kit, vivid yellow with black for the road kit, and the goalkeepers will be in black and platinum. Pictures coming shortly.

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Training Camp Gallery: Rachel Corsie, Lauren Barnes, Elli Reed, Carson Pickett (with special guests Steph and Kaylee Cox)

This gallery contains 43 photos.

The Reign back four from last year conceded the second fewest goals in the NWSL, and look to be strong again in front of Solo and Kopmeyer. Carson Pickett looks like a likely replacement for the retired Stephanie Cox at left back. Note: Kendall Fletcher also returns to the unit and is the likely starter […]

Training Camp Gallery: Bev Yanez, Merritt Mathias, Kiersten Dallstream (with special guest Danielle Foxhoven)

This gallery contains 8 photos.

“Goals change games” is a favourite Laura Harvey adage, and the forwards on a team are often leaned upon to provide them. Last season, Bev Yanez moved into the central slot, and benefited from service from the wings coming from Merritt Matthias and Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe is still rehabilitating an injury and isn’t in training […]