The NWSL this week didn’t have time for any sort of lull, with 8 teams allowing for short recovery weeks and taking on mid-week matches. With the Seattle Reign taking on the Chicago Red Stars for the second time in a month, tensions were sure to run high between two teams vying for space at the top of the NWSL table.
Seattle was coming off a series of draws against FC Kansas City, where they were putting together good (but not great) performances, and Chicago was traveling after a very effective home-stand that saw them on an unbeaten streak since before the beginning of May. With a number of absences (Seattle were missing their reigning NWSL defender of the year Lu Barnes with a red card suspension, and Chicago were missing regularly starting central midfielder Danny Colaprico), it was sure to be an entertaining match as these two teams fought to figure each other out.
The game started off somewhat tentatively, with both squads feeling what the other team could do. Chicago came out of the gate with a high press, running after loose balls and pushing to regain possession after every errant pass. This had Seattle on their heels somewhat, and didn’t give them much room to string together any sort of coherent attack.
This made for a first half of end to end action, where Chicago controlled much of the run of play, though they had some trouble putting together the final pieces to get themselves on the scoreboard. This changed when, in the 41st minute, a long range shot from Chicago striker Christen Press deflected away from the Seattle goal, was collected by Julie Ertz (who had a very dominant first half of the match), sent back in front of the face of goal where Alyssa Mautz was able to divert the ball into the back of the net from close range. This felt like a concession from Seattle that was some time coming considering the pace of the game, and the first half ended in a 1-0 scoreline favoring the visitors.
The second half began with Chicago not quite exerting the same amount of control over possession as they had in the early moments of the match, and the talented Seattle squad started working their way into challenging the Chicago back line. Chicago had had trouble the whole evening with adjusting to the faster ball movement due to the turf surface at Memorial Stadium, and this hurt them in the 58th minute when an odd bounce into the box hit the arm of a Chicago defender, and the Reign were awarded a penalty kick.
Seattle midfielder Megan Rapinoe took no time in sending the ball past Alyssa Naeher to even up the score, and Chicago were caught somewhat on their heels. Regardless, the Red Stars back line was stingy in the run of play, not allowing Seattle to become too dangerous in front of goal. However, the physical play of both teams ended up hurting the visitors when Rapinoe went down in the box in the 84th minute of play, and was awarded yet another penalty kick. Like the first, she calmly slotted the shot home and the game ended in a 2-1 victory for the home squad.
The Red Stars will have to be frustrated by the outcome of this match, where they dictated the pace for much of the game, and were the only squad to score from the run of play. However, by putting their foot off of the pedal in the second half, they gave Seattle the room that they needed to get back into the match, and pull off a come-from-behind win. However, neither team has much time to dwell on what happened Wednesday night, as they both have upcoming matches this weekend to attend to.