The afternoon started off with some big news in the National Women's Soccer League as Mallory Pugh was officially announced as a Washington Spirit player. The furore surrounding Pugh's decision was of no concern to Seattle Reign FC who bounced back from their late draw last week to come away with a 6-2 win over the Spirit on a sunny afternoon in Seattle.
The Spirit will come away from this match knowing that their task is not nearly complete and will need to find a way to shut up shop at the back while the Reign will look at their offense and want to build on that especially away from Memorial Stadium.
Kawasumi runs riot against the Spirit
When Nahomi Kawasumi is at her very best, she is impossible to contain and that was what happened today as the Spirit came up against a very determined Kawasumi and the Seattle Reign. The goals did not come until later on in the first half but once they did, it felt like they were never ending. Christine Nairn got her first goal since returning to Seattle this year when she was found by a great lay off in the box by Kawasumi. Nairn made no mistake from close range and fired Seattle ahead in the 20th minute. Beverly Yanez was the next to get onto the score sheet in the 35th minute as she neatly finished her chance past a hapless Stephanie Labbé from Kawasumi's cross. Seattle could have scored more in the first half but Labbé showed her quality time and time again to keep the score at just 2-0 going into half time.
In the second half, Washington pulled back to within one goal after former Reign player Havan Solaun beat Hayley Kopmeyer from the spot in the 60th minute but instead of demoralising Seattle, it seemed to spur them on even more. Nine minutes later and Kawasumi scored the goal that her play had deserved. Megan Rapinoe was found out wide in space and found her way to the byline before squaring the ball to an unmarked Kawasumi at the far post who had an easy finish. The Reign were not done and in the 71st minute, Rapinoe got her first of the day. After a Washington corner was cleared away calmly by Seattle, substitute Katie Johnson executed a perfect little backheel to set Rapinoe off on the counter. The winger then played the ball out to Kawasumi who unselfishly passed the ball back to Rapinoe to put the ball into an empty net. Rapinoe then got her second when Kawasumi's pass went just behind Johnson in the box and her touch laid the ball off perfectly for Rapinoe to put Seattle 5-1 up. The last Seattle goal of the game came in the 79th minute when Kawasumi was again the creator and found another substitute, Lindsay Elston, making a late run into the box unmarked. Elston then finished low past Labbé to score her first goal of the season and give the Reign a big win.
A tactical switch left holes in the Spirit backline to be exploited
Of all the times that Seattle have come up against a 3-5-2 formation, they have decimated their opponents with their ability to find spaces tactically and with crisp passing. This time was no different as they schooled Jim Gabarra's side and ruthlessly finished off their many chances. It was shocking how easily the Reign were finding gaps in between the Spirit's back three over and over again, and in particular Kawasumi was virtually unmarked all game long. The lack of defensive organization by the Spirit was punished by a Seattle team that was looking to put on a show for their home fans and they accomplished that with some style.
Pugh is coming into a team that is struggling massively in defense and although the Spirit picked up two goals thanks to Solaun and an 88th minute goal from a free-kick by substitute Kristie Mewis, that will mean nothing if they cannot stop the other team from scoring multiple goals on them, even with Pugh's presence going forward. Labbé has been in fantastic form and she has had to be as her teammates have let too many goal scoring opportunities come her way throughout the first five weeks of the season. This time around, she was powerless against a Seattle team that has one the most potent attacks in the NWSL especially when they get going. The Spirit goalkeeper will want more from her teammates and her coach if the Spirit want any hope of not finishing rock bottom in the table at the end of the season.