Reign will face FC Kansas City in final on Oct. 1 in Portland; coach Harvey is determined to avoid any of the complacency that crept in last year.
Contrary as it runs to the Seattle Reign ethos, coach Laura Harvey admits that ahead of last season’s National Women’s Soccer League final against FC Kansas City, a sense of complacency had begun to creep in.
The way they score it in Harvey’s native England, Seattle had already won the league, running away with the regular-season championship and leaving no doubt as to the league’s best team. The playoffs were just gravy.
“Last year,” Harvey said, “I will take full responsibility for the fact that winning the league was enough for me — until we lost the final. I never want that feeling again. Ever, in my life.”
Championship game in Portland: Reign vs. FC Kansas City, 6:30 p.m.
On Sunday night at Memorial Stadium, the Reign earned a chance to make amends.
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Seattle convincingly downed the Washington Spirit 3-0 in the NWSL semifinals behind goals from Beverly Yanez, Megan Rapinoe and Mariah Bullock, setting up a rematch with Kansas City.
Seattle and KC, which upset the Red Stars 3-0 in Chicago earlier on Sunday, will face off on Oct. 1 at Portland’s Providence Park.
“There’s a different mindset in the girls this week than there was a year ago,” Harvey said. “We were a little bit happy. We’d already done it last year. It wasn’t like that this week. It was focus, improvement, wanting to be better, wanting to make sure we had everything nailed down.”
Seattle was so sharp on Sunday evening that Harvey’s only worry as she walked off the field at halftime at 0-0 was that wasteful finishing would come back to bite them.
Yanez, a second-half sub who is dealing with a hip strain, put the Reign in front with her very first touch of the game in the 71st minute.
Rapinoe had the assist on the opener and scored the second herself, hammering a shot inside the right post four minutes later. Bullock put the cherry on top two minutes before stoppage time.
The Reign certainly didn’t look satisfied with its second-straight regular-season title. And players often shrug off praise after dominant wins anyway, preferring to point to the big picture and their ever-present quest for the “perfect game.”
“Every game, we have everything to prove,” Rapinoe explained. “One thing that I love playing for this club, it’s not like we play our best game every game. But the style that we have and the mentality and the philosophy is always going toward the goal of playing the perfect game. We never do.
“But it’s just having that drive and mentality and not being satisfied with what we have, even if it’s been incredibly successful.”
Harvey was more expansive when asked what a championship would mean for the club and its players. This is a group that has won 31 of its last 46 matches and lost just five of them. They haven’t been beaten at home since 2013, and never at Memorial Stadium.
The NWSL title might not be the “perfect game,” but it would bring some sense of validation, a tangible marker of just how far the Reign has come in three years.
“It would mean everything — for the girls, for the staff, for the owners, for everybody that works for the club,” Harvey said. “I say it a lot but we started with nothing. We didn’t even have a cone. We had to build from absolute nothing. To get where we’ve gotten in such a short space of time is a phenomenal achievement.
“But that drive to get that last thing will get us through these next two weeks.”