Nahomi Kawasumi set a new NWSL record with four assists in the Reign's win over the Washington Spirit
Back home at Memorial Stadium after a two-game road stint that yielded a loss to the Boston Breakers and an infuriating tie against Portland thanks to a late goal by the Thorns, the Seattle Reign (2-1-2) were eager to show that they could dominate for an entire game.
That dominance was on full display in a masterful 6-2 win against the Washington Spirit on Saturday afternoon.
Forward Nahomi Kawasumi led the Reign’s relentless attack, setting a new NWSL single match record with four assists. She also managed a well-timed goal in the 69th minute that turned the game permanently in Seattle’s favor after a spirited rally by Washington early in the second half.
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Trailing Seattle 2-0 at halftime, the Spirit (1-3-1) were momentarily energized by a 60th minute penalty kick goal from Havana Solaun.
Solaun’s goal could have been a turning point for the Spirit, who hoped to capitalize on a listless 20 minutes by Seattle early in the second half. Trying to enhance their offensive potency, the Spirit switched formation and went from a four-defender backline to three.
Washington’s ability to play with either three or four backs this season has kept opposing teams on its toes.
“Washington has been the most difficult team to prepare for simply because we weren’t sure how they were going to go,” Reign head coach Laura Harvey said.
But against Seattle, that switch to three backs proved to be the Spirit’s undoing.
With one less defender around to stymie them, Kawasumi and Megan Rapinoe put on a passing and shooting clinic. Rapinoe assisted on Kawasumi’s 69th minute goal, and the Japanese striker returned the favor in the 71st and 76th minutes, when she fed Rapinoe perfect crosses to set up her match-high two goals.
“I personally think we’re really hard to play against if you play a back three,” Harvey said. “Even though (the Spirit) were obviously trying to get goals back when they went to a back-three, I thought Naho and Pinoe just became even more dangerous. They are who they are for a reason, and I think both of them at times today showed their quality throughout the game.”
Added a grinning Rapinoe, “I hope everyone plays a three-back (formation) against us. Forever.”
Held scoreless through the first four games of the young NWSL season, midfielder Christine Nairn, whom the Reign acquired from the Spirit this offseason, scored her first goal of the year against her former team.
Nairn delivered the game’s first goal in the 20th minute on an assist from Kawasumi, who executed a nifty spin move in front of the goal to knock the ball back to Nairn on the right side.
“Naho did what she’s done multiple times this year – she did all the hard work and laid a perfect ball back where I could strike first time, and all I wanted to do was put it in low and hard across the face of the goal and hope someone could get a deflection on it so it could go into goal,” Nairn said.
Kawasumi’s second assist came in the 35th minute, when Beverly Yanez flicked the ball inside the near post from close range.
“She’s one of the best passers of the ball, in my opinion, in the world,” Rapinoe said of Kawasumi. “I think she’s proven that her whole career (because of) her vision and her ability to put the ball where she wants and get into the spaces that she wants to get into. I think we got her in great spaces today.”
Sammamish native and UW alum Lindsay Elston scored the Reign’s final goal in the 79th minute, three minutes after she entered the match as a sub.
The Reign next face the Orlando Pride at home on May 21.