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.

Arsenal pays a visit to Seattle

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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.

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.

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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