Playing without Megan Rapinoe, the Reign went 90 minutes without allowing a goal. However, in stoppage time, North Carolina's Lynn Williams put one past goalie Lydia Williams and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.
Lydia Williams knew this was her game.
The Reign goalkeeper didn’t do anything different to prepare for NWSL-leading North Carolina. But when a club is known to bruise opponents with goals, a keeper does get extra hyped for the test to stop the expected barrage.
Williams was perfect for 90 minutes. However, a scramble in the final seconds of stoppage time kept her and the Reign from closing out their regular-season home games at Memorial Stadium with a shutout.
The Courage (16-1-6) was able to bat in a deflection for an equalizer goal, finishing Saturday’s matinee in a 1-1 draw. Williams had 11 saves in the match.
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“It is frustrating,” Williams said of not getting the shutout. “They’ve proved they’re one of the best teams. To go out and give it to them (was good).”
Unable to join Utah as the only team to have beaten North Carolina, Seattle (11-4-8) now needs Portland or Chicago to lose to clinch the No. 2 seed for the playoffs. The position would give the Reign a home match in the postseason and avoid a rematch with the Courage in the semifinals.
North Carolina officially clinched the NWSL Shield the first week of August. However, no NWSL team challenged North Carolina once it opened on a 12-game unbeaten streak.
Seattle did achieve the draw without its best player, Megan Rapinoe. The striker thought she only suffered a bruised rib in Tuesday’s win against Houston, but another X-ray late Friday showed a fractured rib that will cause her to be out at least two weeks.
“Some would probably look at that and say the Seattle Reign are not at their best,” midfielder Jess Fishlock said. “Today was a message to say that you can’t bully us, we’re going to fight. We can win playing great football. And we probably should have won.”
Fishlock helped set up Seattle’s score with a corner kick in the 67th minute aimed at defender Theresa Nielsen, who used a header from 15-yards out to send the ball toward the goal. Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland and Seattle forward Jodie Taylor missed attempts to play the ball, which bounced into the back of the net.
North Carolina, which was called for two yellow cards, played more physical until forward Lynn Williams scored the desperation goal.
“It’s important for us to know we can compete against this great team,” Reign coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “The take-away is knowing that we can adapt and adjust. We’re very happy we’re in the playoffs and were using the (final) two games to prepare for the playoffs. What better opponent than North Carolina?”
Seattle closes its season against rival Portland on Sept. 7.
The Reign and Courage played Saturday’s match with four water breaks. The NWSL implemented the procedure for the second consecutive Reign game because of poor air quality in the region due to smoke from wildfires in British Columbia and California.
“It made the game feel about three hours long,” said Courage coach Paul Riley. “The second (break) killed us because I thought we were really giving it them (Seattle), the same in the second half. … We didn’t want to come here and roll over and get beat before we go to the playoff. We showed resilience.”