Reign FC beats Spirit, 3-1, to improve to 2-0
Seattle got two goals off corner kicks.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Coach Laura Harvey admitted to some scoreboard watching over the weekend, hoping the results around the National Women’s Soccer League would allow for a Reign FC milestone.
The scores all fell into place, none more important than Wednesday’s 3-1 home win against the Washington Spirit to provide for an early-yet-meaningful milestone: Seattle, with a 2-0 record, is in first place for the first time in its brief two-year history.
“I want people to fear coming to Memorial (Stadium),” said Harvey. “For us to come out with two wins, score six goals, be hard to beat ... we’re starting to set records from a franchise perspective and we’re starting to show we can compete in this league.
“That’s a nice feeling.”
The matchup in front of 1,754 fans at a wet Memorial Stadium was between the two worst NWSL teams from last season, but after a roster-shaking offseason, the Reign has the look of a contender, having outscored opponents 6-1.
The six goals are most in the league, and to put the offensive outburst into context, last year the Reign didn’t even score a sixth goal until its 12th game.
Leading 1-0 in the second half, Seattle got a crucial insurance goal in the 49th minute when midfielder Keelin Winters, the team captain, headed in a cross from Nahomi Kawasumi.
That appeared to awake the visitors from what had been a lackluster performance, and Washington pulled to within 2-1 on a 72nd-minute penalty kick by Diana Matheson, her league-leading third goal of the season.
Harvey called the PK decision “harsh” — following an inadvertent hand-ball by defender Kendall Fletcher in the penalty box — but Seattle would answer eight minutes later when midfielder Jess Fishlock drove in a long-range blast, all but clinching the win.
“The most important thing for us is that we’re winning,” said Fishlock. “We sort of need to jell and other things are still not quite there for us, so we can still improve.”
The Reign had opened the scoring in the second minute when Fletcher, acquired in the offseason from Australia’s Canberra United, knocked in her first goal of the season off a Fishlock cross.
Fletcher celebrated with a back flip, a move familiar in Seattle thanks to Sounders FC star Obafemi Martins. Fishlock earned her second assist of the season.
Kawasumi, who will leave for national-team duty with Japan in early May, played a part in the buildup to all three Seattle goals — in her first start, no less. “Naho is class, world class,” Harvey said.
And Reign FC is looking much the same.
• Reign FC caps a three-game homestand to start the season at 4 p.m. Sunday against expansion Houston.
• Seattle star Megan Rapinoe was dropped to the bench after suffering an injury in warmups and did not play. The hosts were also without injured defenders Amanda Frisbie (the team’s first-round draft pick) and Carmelina Moscato (a Canadian international).
• Spirit midfielder Veronica Perez, a former University of Washington standout, came on as a second-half substitute. Washington starter Christine Nairn played for the Reign last season and led Seattle with five assists.