Rapinoe, Reign nip Sky Blue back east

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NEW JERSEY – (club release) A Megan Rapinoe goal in the 64th minute was enough to give Reign FC a 1-0 win on the road against Sky Blue FC. The victory puts Seattle in second place on 17 points, with a record of 5-2-2, and gives the club its third win in three matches against its New Jersey-based opponent.

Nine minutes into play, Lydia Williams was pressed into duty. The Seattle keeper stopped a blistering shot from Carli Lloyd that would have given Sky Blue an early lead. As things started to open up, Jess Fishlock fired Reign FC’s first shot on goal. Fishlock had a good look from inside the penalty area, but was denied by Kailen Sheridan.

Seattle earned a free kick in the 14th minute, which was taken by Megan Rapinoe. She triggered a set play by passing the ball to Rumi Utsugi, who delivered the ball to Fishlock. After bringing the ball down and taking a touch, Fishlock was stripped by a Sky Blue FC defender. Jodie Taylor had her first scoring chance in the 18th minute, taking a through ball from Fishlock and streaking down the field. Before she could uncork a shot, Rebekah Stott stepped in to end the Seattle attack.

Rapinoe looked for the first goal of the night in the 21st minute. She found a seam in Sky Blue FC’s defense, received a pass and geared up for a shot. Her attempt was far too high to bother Sheridan, and Rapinoe argued for a corner kick, but the referees ruled that her shot was untouched by any opponent.

Lydia Williams went down in the 26th minute after a collision in the box with Sky Blue FC forward Janine Beckie. Williams was taken through the concussion protocol by Seattle’s trainer but was cleared to return to play. Christen Westphal conceded a foul in the 30th minute, giving Sky Blue FC a free kick near the right corner. Savannah McCaskill’s out-swinging ball could not connect with any of her teammates, skimming out of bounds for a goal kick.

Williams made her second save of the match in the 33rd minute. Stott had a shot from a difficult angle, trying to sneak one past Williams at the near post. Seattle’s Australian goalkeeper got her hands on it to keep the ball out of the net. Lloyd tripped Fishlock on the other end of the pitch minutes later, giving Reign FC a spot kick in the 39th minute. Rapinoe tried a direct shot, but it went harmlessly into Sheridan’s grasp.

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Janine Beckie linked with McCaskill for a Sky Blue scoring chance right before half. McCaskill contorted herself into a shooting position and tried to put one on frame, but Kristen McNabb got a foot on her shot before it could reach Lydia Williams. Stott got her body in front of a Rapinoe shot in Seattle’s last attempt of the first half.

The teams left the pitch at halftime tied 0-0. Reign FC extended its streak of not allowing a first half goal to nine matches. Seattle is the only team in the NWSL not to allow a goal in the first 45 minutes of a match.

Elizabeth Addo started the second half with a searching ball into the box in the 50th minute, but could not find a teammate on the other end. Vlatko Andonovski made the first substitution of the match by adding Jasmyne Spencer to the mix in the 56th minute, entering the match for forward Jodie Taylor. Addo continued to make her presence felt, combining on a one-two with Jess Fishlock in the 59th minute. Fishlock played a back-heel pass to Addo, who was brought down without a foul called.

Shea Groom took the pitch in the 63rd minute as the first substitute off Denise Reddy’s bench. Not long after that, Megan Rapinoe knocked in the first and only goal of the night. Reign FC’s fabulous forward cashed in an assist from Christen Westphal, tying Kim Little for most regular season goals in Seattle club history with 32. The goal was Rapinoe’s fifth of the 2018 NWSL season.

After the goal, Bev Yanez rose from the bench and took over for Fishlock in the 66th minute. Reign FC nearly struck again when Rapinoe threaded a pass across the goal mouth for Jasmyne Spencer. Spencer was in on goal but could not get a foot on the ball before it was collected by Sheridan.

Sky Blue FC tried to equalize in the 78th minute, as a cross took a wild bounce off a group of players, but the ball parachuted right into the arms of Lydia Williams. Alyssa Kleiner came on for Elizabeth Addo in the 81st minute, giving Seattle a more defensive stance. Sky Blue FC countered by putting Jen Hoy in for defender Christina Gibbons.

Spencer used her fresh legs to break away in the 86th minute, but couldn’t muster a shot on goal after advancing into the 18.

Reign FC kept the pressure on until the last second. Spencer again got behind the defense, and after a series of passes the ball landed with Rapinoe. Her shot was blocked away, but the sequence was key in using the clock and wearing down Sky Blue’s defense at the end. From there, neither team had any possession that led to a significant chance.

Rapinoe’s fifth goal of the season came on Westphal’s first assist. Lydia Williams completed her second consecutive shutout, having kept Chicago Red Stars off the board in her last start. Reign FC moves to second place in the NWSL table with 17 points, vaulting ahead of Portland and Orlando who both sit on 15 points. The team heads back to Seattle to host Orlando Pride in its next match on Sunday, June 3.

Tickets for the June 3 match – Orlando’s only trip to Seattle this season – are available at http://www.reignfc.com/tickets.

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