Hope Solo might have finally found a save she can’t make. The goalkeeper who is often referred to as the best in the women’s game has parried away point-blank shots in World Cup finals and fended off penalty kicks on the Olympic stage. But resurrecting Seattle Reign FC, a team that went winless its first 10 games, is a challenge that national-team and Reign teammate Megan Rapinoe calls “daunting.”
Solo, who was sidelined with a wrist injury for the team’s first seven contests, joined the Reign in late May while Rapinoe, on duty with French club Olympique Lyon, debuted on June 23.
The same Seattle team that endured a nine-game losing skid in the National Women’s Soccer League less than two months ago has salvaged something out of its season, acquiring 14 points in its past seven games.
The team’s recipe for success? Heavy doses of Solo and Rapinoe, with just a hint of luck.
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“We weren’t getting beat by many goals early in the season,” Solo said. “Our team had potential, they were right there, right on the cusp. You add in a couple players and you’re going to get more success than you had previously.”
During the losing streak, the team had managed just five goals in nine games. Coach Laura Harvey made a habit of rearranging her starting 11 on a weekly basis, with players shuffling in and out of the lineup because of international duty.
With its roster fully intact, Seattle has shown flashes of brilliance, scored heaps of goals and seen attendance numbers rise drastically.
The team attracted 2,618 fans to its home opener at Starfire Stadium and just 1,011 two weeks later for a week six matchup. It drew a sellout crowd (3,855) to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit on July 14.
Although Seattle was a few missed chances and defensive slip-ups away from early-season victories, the Reign’s newfound flair is directly related to the addition of its world-class pair.
“They bring belief, they bring professionalism and they bring experience,” Harvey said. “They understand what it takes to win, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to get into a player when they haven’t been in those situations before.”
On the pitch, the duo, whose presence on the team isn’t guaranteed past this year, brings a unique skill set.
With Solo, it’s an uncanny shot-stopping ability that has separated her from the world’s elite goalkeepers. The UW product and Richland native boasts a save percentage of 84 percent in NWSL play, but claims she’s yet to fully recover from her injury.
“Obviously she’s the No. 1, unarguably, goalkeeper in the world, so to have that between the posts just from a functional standpoint is brilliant,” Rapinoe said.
With Rapinoe, the Reign has one of the world’s most talented playmakers. She has two goals in seven appearances, but her creative style doesn’t necessarily translate to the score sheet.
“Other teams change the way they play because Megan Rapinoe’s on the field,” Harvey said. “The way they defend, they try to stop her, which we’ve seen and we know.”
Still an outlier when it comes to earning a postseason berth, the Reign needs 15 points in its final five games and some faltering from teams above them if it wants to reach the four-team NWSL playoffs.
Reign FC has a foundation built. But its fans await the response to a question many have asked: Will Solo and Rapinoe stick around?
“I haven’t fully decided yet. I think I’ll wait until after the season to make those decisions,” Rapinoe said.
Solo’s future too, is still up in the air.
“First and foremost,” she said, “my focus is World Cups and Olympics.”
|Seattle Reign home attendance|
|May 4||FC Kansas City 1, Reign 0||2,618|
|May 16||Washington Spirit 4, Reign 2||1,011|
|May 19||Sky Blue FC 3, Reign 0||1,046|
|May 25||Portland 1, Reign 0 (Hope Solo debut)||3,324|
|June 9||FC Kansas City 1, Reign 0||1,377|
|June 29||Reign 3, Chicago Red Stars 1 (Megan Rapinoe home debut||2,318|
|July 3||Reign 1, Boston Breakers 1||1,430|
|July 11||Reign 3, Western New York Flash 1||2,514|
|July 14||Reign 2, Washington Spirit 1 (first nationally televised NWSL game)||3,855|
Theo Lawson: email@example.com