Kim Little floats a perfect ball over the top of Houston’s defense to Nahomi Kawasumi, who dances herself into position for a chip-shot goal.
Now, replay that image one more time, replacing Little with Jessica Fishlock, and you’ll have the Kawasumi double-shot that gave the Seattle Reign FC (16-1-5) goals in the 32nd and 34th minutes Wednesday night against Houston.
Those mirror-image scores were the catalyst for Seattle’s 4-1 win over the Dash (5-13-3) in front of 3,375 at Memorial Stadium.
“We know when she gets it, she’ll produce something or create a goal,” Little said of Kawasumi. “
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We got her in great positions, and she showed her quality.”
Kawasumi followed up her back-to-back first-half goals with an assist five minutes later. She slid the ball to an attacking Bev Goebel, who rounded Houston goalie Bianca Henninger in the 39th minute for an easy goal to make it 3-0 Reign.
Kawasumi, who was signed in February from Japan, was playing on Wednesday in front of her mother for the first time since stepping on U.S. soil. Her mother flew from Japan on Tuesday, and is here to watch Kawasumi play this week.
“I think it was my mom’s power that was able to get me the goals,” she said through her translator, Kathy Takahashi.
Perhaps it was the prospect of playing in front of her mother, and perhaps it was just the benefit of the many hours logged with her teammates. She is meshing with the Reign better than ever.
“Naho’s class. She’s just class,” said Seattle coach Laura Harvey. “I think at the start of the year, it took us a while to work her out a little bit and just how she plays. … Over the last maybe month or so, it’s just massively clicking with her.”
Amid Kawasumi’s flurry of offense, the Dash got one shot off in the first half, compared to the Reign’s seven attempts.
Seattle goalie Haley Kopmeyer had come out of the net to clear away a previous threat, and Houston’s Tiffany McCarty tried to pop it in around her in the 13th minute. But Lauren Barnes headed away the shot, and the Dash didn’t get another goal attempt for the rest of the half.
It was also the first time this season that Houston had allowed three or more goals in the first half.
It got worse for the Dash before it got better. In the 63rd minute, Little got behind the defense and charged about 15 yards by herself to pop the ball just inside the near side of the net. That made it a 4-0 Reign lead.
But in the 83rd minute, Marissa Diggs sent a cross Nina Burger’s way, and Burger slid it past Kopmeyer for Houston’s only goal of the night, setting the 4-1 final score.
Even before the blowout win against Houston, Seattle had already clinched a playoff spot and the NWSL Shield, which is given to the team with the best regular season record. Seattle has two more matches — against Washington and at Portland — before the playoffs begin Aug. 22-23.
Starters Hope Solo and Sydney Leroux sat out Wednesday’s match, and Harvey said that would continue into the next game against Washington, so they can rest before the playoffs.