The Washington Spirit play the Seattle Reign on Sunday with a chance for the Spirit to clinch the NWSL Shield and eliminate the Reign from playoff contention. Black and Red United chatted with Sounder at Heart writer Jacob Cristobal to prepare for Sunday night’s match.
Black and Red United: The immense anthem controversy on Wednesday night justifiably became the story of the Spirit vs. Seattle game. On the field, what did you take away from the Reign's performance?
I look back at Washington's first goal and it was a shot that no one on this planet could have stopped. As Laura Harvey said at yesterday's training the fact that Reign's defense held Washington to an outside the box, highlight reel strike is encouraging that for the most part Washington did not have their way and have a picnic within the box. Looking at Washington's second goal, yes they got some luck in Kopmeyer not securing the ball and instead a fortuitous bounce for Cheyna Williams to follow through and finish. The 32 minutes Megan Rapinoe put in looked encouraging and confirmed for me the safe assumption that whenever Pinoe saw the field in 2016 in general that Laura Harvey was going to manage it a lot better than Jill Ellis would. Her free kick around the 75th could have been a tricky one for Wys and if that had been an equalizer, the circumstances of Sunday's game could be a lot different. And finally, just the overall fighting spirit of the team to remained focus through the weather delays. It's always seems to be something whenever the Reign travel to the Plex late in the season that shows up that either prevents kick off happening at the scheduled time and given this season has been a weird one for the team on the field, they sure haven't looked like a team that's ready to throw in the towel. They still have a chance, albeit the tiniest of chances, but from what I know of this team, as long as there's a chance they will continue to fight.
B&RU: The loss to the Spirit makes Sunday’s game essential to the Reign's postseason goals. Without a win, Seattle will be eliminated. What do you think the team needs to improve in order to get a win?
Kim Little is awesome. Yes, this isn't exactly breaking news, but if there's a time for her to remind everyone she is one of the best players in the league, the world, this is her stage. If the Kim Little from the home match against Kansas City back in May shows up, then Washington could be in trouble. Bev Yanez has also been very quiet this season as far as finding the back of the net. If she can get on the ball and even just get a solid shot on goal, I think that brings back some confidence to where maybe she finds the back of the net. The pressure on Seattle to win Sunday is the ultimate backs against the wall. As cliche as it sounds, this could be a game where the stars of Reign FC step up and remind everyone who they are. Also, it'd be nice if Merritt Mathias doesn't commit another foul in the box.
B&RU: This will be the Reign's third game in eight days. On Wednesday the Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra rotated his squad significantly while Reign head coach Laura Harvey did not. How do you think that will that impact this match?
Seattle's lineup on Wednesday was as much out of necessity to try and get the full 3 points and while I don't doubt the squad is tired, but from what I saw at training on Friday, everyone looked sharp. Obviously playing at home gives any team that bit of boost and I have to imagine no midwest or east coast humidity will be a welcome change of pace for them.
Follow Jacob on twitter at @jacobcristobal, and Sounder at Heart’s Reign-centric account at @rovalks.