Despite ending in a 0-0 tie with visiting Chicago on Wednesday night, looking ahead, the Seattle Reign are hoping to make a deep postseason run into October.
The Seattle Reign had a chance to clinch their first playoff bid since 2015 with a win in Wednesday’s home match against the Chicago Red Stars, but stingy defense and impressive goalkeeping on both sides ultimately led to a scoreless draw, likely delaying for a bit longer the Reign’s clinch of a playoff berth.
And though the Reign fell short in that regard, the team felt regardless that it was able to gain something, besides a point in the standings.
Chicago collected three yellow cards and 14 fouls in the match, leading Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock to call out Chicago’s physicality after the match as “honestly ridiculous.” But she said that the way the Reign responded to the rough play sends a message to the rest of the league.
“This point shows we’re not going to be pushovers, we’re not going to be beaten and we’re not going to be bullied,” Fishlock said. “Teams know that they can’t bully us anymore.”
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While the Reign (10-4-7) sit comfortably in second place in the NWSL standings with 37 points, the regular season is nearing its close and the Reign are looking to make a deep postseason run into October.
Seattle managed to draw despite the poor air quality (the city has been under a blanket of smoke due to wildfires) and without the contributions of multiple key players. Megan Rapinoe, Beverly Yanez, Elizabeth Addo, and Rumi Utsugi were all out with injuries, and Stephanie Catley missed the game due to an excused absence.
With the draw, Seattle remains winless against Chicago (7-4-9) this year. The Red Stars are one of three teams (the others being North Carolina and Orlando) that Seattle has not beaten this year.
“I think Chicago has one of the best teams in the league actually,” Fishlock said. “This was just a game that they needed to get a point from, and they did whatever they could to do that, and we did the same.”
From early on, Chicago threatened to take advantage on set pieces and strike first, including off a corner in the eighth minute. Julie Ertz nearly headed the ball in off the cross from Vanessa Di Bernardo, but Reign goalkeeper Lydia Williams was right there to get the save.
Williams came up clutch again in the 54th minute, when she denied Sam Kerr’s close-range shot to the center of the goal that would have broken the scoreless tie. Kerr, the 2017 NWSL MVP who is tied for second in the league with 10 goals, had five of the Red Stars’ 15 shots in the match and nearly netted the game-winner in the 80th minute after getting past the Reign’s defense. Her shot ultimately went wide left.
Williams ended the match with five saves and secured her NWSL-leading ninth clean sheet and third straight.
The Reign’s attack, which failed to notch a shot on goal the entire game, was limited in the first 45 minutes, though it was able to break into Chicago’s defensive third starting toward the end of the first half. And while the momentum shifted in the Reign’s favor after halftime, they weren’t able to net any of their eight total shots.
“It took us a little while to get into it,” Fishlock said. “Once we stopped a few of the little things that caused a bit of trouble in the second half we were far better and we were really unlucky to come away without three points.”
Theresa Nielsen had a chance to get the Reign on the board in the 59th minute off a corner, but a Red Stars defender blocked her close-range shot off Morgan Andrews’ cross. Fishlock nearly displayed some late-game heroics when, in the 82nd minute, she fired a shot off the left post and, in the 88th minute, when she sent a shot into the side of the net.
“We created so many opportunities and I feel like as long as we can finish a couple of those, then we’ll be able to beat them,” Andrews said. “I think that (the draw) was more being accountable for us and taking on the responsibilities of putting the ball in the back of the net.”
Before they even return to the pitch on Saturday, the Reign can earn a playoff bid this week with a Houston Dash draw or loss vs. the Washington Spirit and an Orlando Pride draw or loss vs. the North Carolina Courage.