Amy Rodriguez scored the game’s only goal in the 78th minute, and though Seattle controlled the tempo for most of the night, it again fell one win shy of the NWSL title again as Kansas City repeated as league champions, 1-0.
PORTLAND – Seattle’s second consecutive upset loss to FC Kansas City in the championship game of the National Women’s Soccer League wasn’t a carbon copy of the first, but the sense of déjà vu was still powerful enough to shake another dash of salt into a long-festering wound.
Thursday night at Providence Park, Kansas City forward Amy Rodriguez again scored the game-winning goal, this time in the 78th minute. FCKC again defied the odds in tripping up Seattle’s high-powered attack.
And the Reign again slumped to the turf, disbelieving, as white-clad players from FCKC howled with joy around them celebrating a 1-0 victory and a second straight NWSL championship in front of an announced crowd of 13,264.
“When we watch the game back, we’ll be disappointed in the way we played at times,” Seattle coach Laura Harvey said. “Whereas last year, it was so gut-wrenching because we played so well. We’re already reflecting on the game and picking out things that we could have been better at. Last year, that was really difficult because we were so dominant.”
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For a year, the Reign has brooded over its National Women’s Soccer League championship-game loss to FC Kansas City.
And they could have hardly asked for a more serendipitous playoff bracket. In the semifinals awaited the Washington Spirit, the same team Seattle squeaked past at the same stage last season. Once the Reign took care of business and Kansas City upset Chicago on the road, the rematch was on.
Seattle typically doesn’t get nervous. Looseness is in this team’s DNA, and more than one player credits the team’s success to the relaxed locker room vibe that Harvey has encouraged.
Blame the stakes, blame two talented teams warily eying each other up, but Thursday’s match was anxious from the start. Rodriguez shook free for a decent look early on, then Little fired right into Nicole Barnhart’s arms when released on the counter at the other end. That was about all of the clear goal-scoring chances until the match reached its final quarter -hour.
All told, Seattle managed to fire off just seven shots, three on goal.
“I think we could have been a little bit more aggressive with our finishing,” Seattle midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. “I think sometimes we try to make it too perfect. A lot of times, we can. We’re that good.”
The clock ticked upward, but the zeroes on the scoreboard wouldn’t budge. Rapinoe smashed a shot off the left post midway through the second half, but otherwise, the game looked destined for added time.
“The longer the game goes on and you’re just not getting those breaks, you get the sense that it’s not going to be your night,” Harvey said.
Late in the match, KC midfielder Lauren Holiday played in Heather O’Reilly, who hooked in a cross for Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s header caught Seattle goalkeeper Hope Solo leaning, and the ball squiggled over the line.
“We looked like we were getting more dangerous as the half went on,” Harvey said. “When you get into the 70th minute, into the 75th minute, it’s all about, can you take your chances? Unfortunately we couldn’t do that, and we couldn’t create enough. They took theirs. And that was probably it.”
Holiday had her storybook ending, retiring at the age of 28 as an NWSL and World Cup champion.
“When that clock was ticking down, I was thinking, ‘Just hold on,’ ” Holiday said. “’We can hold on a couple more minutes.’ And to win for club and country is absolutely the best feeling in the world.”
Seattle, from the looks on pained faces, experienced something of the opposite. This loss wasn’t as excruciating as last year’s, but it was close enough to recall a familiar sting.
Correction: The caption on the eighth photo in the gallery with this story originally misidentified the player heading the ball. That player is Jessica Fishlock.