By JASON MITCHELL
TUKWILA, Wash. — Conventional wisdom said the Seattle Reign would win Sunday’s NWSL championship match against FC Kansas City.
The Reign, after all, finished the season with the best record in the league, only lost twice all year, and featured both the coach of the year and the league MVP. They also outscored opponents 30-11 at home.
Somebody forgot to tell Amy Rodriguez. And Lauren Holiday.
Despite absorbing seemingly unending waves of Seattle attack, Kansas City capitalized on two of its only real chances of the day, riding a pair of Rodriguez goals – both assisted by Holiday – to a 2-1 win in front of a near sellout crowd of 4,252 at Starfire Stadium.
“We were playing the best team in the league, hands down,” said Kansas City head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “(It’s an) unbelievable roster, great team, great organization. They were very well organized. We knew it was going to be a battle all the way through. We came ready to battle, and I’m just glad the girls battled all the way through for 90 minutes.”
Rodriguez opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, striding onto a lovely through ball from Holiday and easily beating Hope Solo from 12 yards out.
“I felt like today’s game wasn’t necessarily our best,” said Rodriguez. “Luckily I was able to get two chances and finish them. I can’t thank my midfielders, and especially Lauren Holiday, enough. She has made me look so good this season and set up so many amazing passes.”
More than 30 minutes of Seattle pressure ensued, but Rodriguez once again capitalized on a rare Kansas City opportunity. In the 55th minute, Holiday danced and spun through the penalty area in search of a shot before finding Rodriguez unmarked near the penalty spot for the 2-0 lead. It was the first time Seattle trailed by two goals all season.
“I was actually trying to score myself,” said Holiday, “but they obviously closed me down. I just tried to get free and once I got free I saw A-Rod up at the of the penalty spot and found her. She had a great finish.”
Holiday and Rodriguez both also scored in FC Kansas City’s 2-0 win over the Portland Thorns to advance to the final.
“I thought we gave up two sloppy goals,” said Reign head coach Laura Harvey, “goals that we don’t normally concede. And I thought they defended really well against us. I thought they made it really difficult.”
Megan Rapinoe finally broke through for Seattle in the 87th minute, and the Reign nearly equalized twice in a wild few minutes of stoppage time. Jess Fishlock found space in the box moments after the end of regulation, but sent a 12-yard shot well wide of the left post. With stoppage time winding down, Rapinoe found herself alone in the penalty area, but scuffed a volley wide of the right post.
“If the game had being going on for five minutes more than maybe we would have gotten the equalizer,” said Harvey.
Seattle flew out of the gates, flooding Kansas City’s half of the field with a barrage of crosses, one-two combinations, and lobbed through balls, but rarely forcing goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart into difficult saves.
Kim Little nearly equalized just moments after Kansas City’s first goal, whipping in a volley from point-blank range, but Barnhart delivered a stellar kick save.
“It’s just pure disappointment right now, I think,” said Little. “We did all we could to win the game, but I think on the day they took their chances. And although we had more (chances) and maybe dominated the game, we didn’t take ours.”
In the 29th minute Sydney Leroux headed a Little cross inches wide of the far post as the Reign finished the first half in an intense flurry that failed to seriously challenge Barnhart.
Here are the match highlights:
Surprised to see FC Kansas City lifting the trophy? Think it was a successful season for the Reign despite losing the final?
Share your thoughts below.
Now Reign fans know how us Sol fans felt.
A bit tough to watch Seattle fall short right at the very end. Such an incredible season and hats off to Laura Harvey. There’s no question they were the best team this year
On the other hand, how can you not feel that KC was the better team today? I think a lot of people wrote A-Rod off. (i was one of them) It’s nice to see her come back not just from having a child but come back from being pushed to the backburner by people like Morgan, Press, and Leroux. Surely Jill Ellis saw the magic of Cheney and Rodriguez together?
I think Seattle was the better team but didn’t finish their chances. Leroux needs to make progress as a striker in tight situations and in posession as opposed to on the counter. Little can’t score every goal. I’m not sure Seattle deserved to win, as good as they’ve been, they SHOULD have been so much better given their roster.
Good to see A-rod getting back to form. We’ll need her next summer.
You think she’ll play? Who are you going to get rid off Press, Morgan, Leroux or Wambach? I know who should go… but Klinsman doesn’t coach the Women’s team.
Lordy, JK would have cut Amy in a heart beat wouldnt he.
No. He would cut Wambach.
Hard to tell. I mean look how often he called in Edgar Castillo. Just to name one such case.
I don’t think klinsman would leave out anyone who scored that many goals, the inclusion of Wondolowski over Donovan demonstrates that. I think A-Rod has demonstrated she’s developed as a player. You can’t leave out Leroux or Morgan. Press in incredibly skillful so I think that means Wambach.
I would say it’s premature to put Rodriguez over any of the other 4, unless and until she demonstrates that kind of form and consistency for the USWNT.
Which maybe she will begin to do, especially if she can keep up this sync mode she seems to have now with Holiday. But for my money, there are WAY too many memories of painful misses for country (actually, rather like Wondo on the men’s side!) to put her back in at the expense of losing any 1 of the other 4.
“Good to see A-rod getting back to form. We’ll need her next summer.”
Lordy I hope not!
You don’t want a player that can score goals? Oh OK
If we need Rodriguez the way she has tended to perform for the USWNT, and so badly that we’ll leave 1 of those other 4 out, then the USWNT is in trouble. See above.
You really can just switch the W to M and A-Rod to Wondo for a quick, illustrative analogy.
I’m a bit surprised to see KC lifting the trophy but very happy for it – I hate it when a team absolutely destroys the rest of a league.
There were so many Reign “fans” this year (both in the stands and online) that were /nowhere/ to be seen in 2013, I would say that the Reign have had a successful season if they manage to keep even half of those new fanboys and -girls. Kudos to them fixing their attendance problem, though.
Super authentic portland talking points
Seriously though. Merritt, is that you? Haha