Boston goalie Alyssa Naeher was face down on the field as Seattle Reign FC celebrated on Sunday.
Despite being the league leader in saves, she let one get away. It was a shot from forward Nahomi Kawasumi off an assist from Jessica Fishlock. Naeher tried to challenge the play for another impressive save.
Instead, in the crowd of players, Kawasumi was able to slip the shot past for the game-winning goal in the 83rd minute. And the Reign remained unbeaten with a 3-2 win against the Breakers at Memorial Stadium.
Kawasumi was given a rousing applause from the 3,705 in attendance when substituted out of the game in the 90th minute.
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“It was like slow motion; I saw the play unfold,” Kawasumi explained through her interpreter, Kathy Takahashi.
Kawasumi scored the team’s first goal in the 55th minute to unfold a story line repeated in the Reign’s string of wins. Seattle (13-0-3) was down by a goal at the break and needed a familiar rally to scrape by last-place Boston (3-11-2).
Seattle midfielder Kim Little pressured the Breakers into an own goal in the 76th minute for what the crowd thought was the winning score. Two minutes later, however, Boston forward Kathryn Schoepfer nailed an equalizer past Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo.
But Kawasumi eyed another opening to close out the win.
“I think this is our eighth time coming back,” forward Sydney Leroux said. “We always scare ourselves, ‘Could this be the one that we lose?’ But we always come back and we find a way to score and we find a way to win.”
Reign coach Laura Harvey is growing weary of her team’s need for heroics. True, the Reign sit atop the National Women’s Soccer League, but the play isn’t as dominant as the undefeated record looks.
Teams like the Breakers are getting long shots into the net. And the Reign aren’t connecting on as many shot attempts. Naeher had five saves in the opening half. She finished with six saves overall.
“Yeah, we should have scored a few goals before they got their one,” Fishlock said of the first half.
Harvey is hopeful some practice time this week before the team travels to play the Chicago Red Stars will correct some of the small errors.
“I never doubt their desire to want to win,” Harvey said of her players. “But I think at times we let ourselves down a little tiny bit, a detail that turns us from a team that just scrapes to win to a team that makes the win really comfortable. … That’s something we need to address. We need to stop conceding goals.”
From the second minute, Solo was challenged. That was when Boston sent its first shot and she was able to collect the save. In the 19th minute, Courtney Jones was able to get the ball past Solo for a 1-0 Boston lead.
Solo showed her resiliency through the remainder of the game, her third since a June 21 arrest for two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault. She finished with one save on three shots on goal overall.
“She really didn’t get worked too hard,” Harvey said of Solo, who declined a request to talk to the media.
No, it was Naeher getting pressured, with one sneaking by to keep Seattle rolling.
“We have a confidence that our ability and our fitness will come through,” defender Stephanie Cox said. “We have some things we have to iron out and figure out how we can get out to a better start. (But) once you get those wins, you have a belief you can do it.”
• Cox was helped off the field at halftime after re-injuring her right ankle. She tested the injury in the second half but asked to be taken out of the game early. She expects to start Saturday.
• Forward Megan Rapinoe missed the start due to her injured hamstring. Harvey expects her to return for the match against Chicago.
“She actually tweaked her hamstring celebrating the first goal in Western New York when she was still on the bench,” Harvey said. “We could have pushed her today, but didn’t need to do that. She’ll be fine for next week.”
• Schoepfer received a yellow card in stoppage time for a reckless foul.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.