The Reign has earned the right to enjoy the last month of the regular season.
Seattle wrapped up first place in the National Women’s Soccer League and home-field advantage throughout the postseason with four games to spare. Saturday night was a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor in their home finale on a perfect Seattle summer evening.
The Washington Spirit delayed the party for 88 minutes, as Diana Matheson opened the scoring for the visitors on the half-hour mark.
But Kim Little sent the high-spirited Memorial Stadium crowd home with a point via her league-best 16th goal of the year, earning a 1-1 draw just minutes from stoppage time.
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The match reflected the stakes, at least for the Reign. August is a season for indulgence, especially in this part of the country, especially on a night like Saturday.
“I think maybe some players are less tense,” Little said. “Yeah, you try things that maybe you’d be too scared to in matches that mean a bit more.”
Jessica Fishlock capped a fifth-minute passing move with a kung-fu deflection for Sydney Leroux, whose shot hooked inches wide. Megan Rapinoe dropped one-touch bombs all over the field. Some were blocked, others found teammates — like the one in the 18th that played Leroux into space down the left side.
Then Washington broke on the counter, three attackers versus two defenders, and Diana Matheson tucked a shot inside the far post. The Spirit took a 1-0 lead into the break.
“For Washington, it’s the biggest game for them because they need to get points,” Little said. “It’s almost a luxury for us, if you could say that, because we had such a good start to the season.”
In the second half, the Reign sharpened up. Its passing connections had more bite, and its players were just as eager to go hard into challenges as Washington’s.
Seattle finally broke through with just two minutes of normal time to spare, as Little cut into a through ball and shimmied free before finishing low.
The final result was meaningful in the standings only for widening the gap between Washington and Portland in third and fourth places.
“Is it a disaster? No. Do I want us to produce our best football in this game? No,” Seattle coach Laura Harvey said. “I want us to produce it on the 24th. I’ll accept it, but we can’t get ourselves in a rhythm or a routine of allowing that to happen.”
On the 24th, Seattle’s next home game against an opponent to be determined, there will be a spot in the NWSL championship game on the line.