Reign lose to FC Kansas City in NWSL title game
But that day was not Sunday, when players and coaches were dealing with the disappointment of failing to cap their record-setting season with a National Women's Soccer League championship.
That title went instead to FC Kansas City, the regular-season runner-up, which took the league's second championship with a 2-1 win before a crowd of 4,252 at Starfire Sports Stadium.
Amy Rodriguez scored both Kansas City goals, while Lauren Holiday assisted both and was voted the game's most valuable player.
“It's just pure disappointment right now,” said Reign forward Kim Little, the regular season most valuable player and Golden Boot winner. “We did all we could to win the game, but I think on the day they took their chances. And I think although we had more (chances) and maybe dominated the game, we couldn't take ours. I think right now it's hard to look back on it. But I'm sure in a few weeks or whenever we'll all look back on it and be proud.”
The Reign dominated possession through the early minutes. Then Kansas City began finding itself, first moving the game into the middle third, and then becoming dangerous in its attacking end.
In the 23rd minute, Rodriguez got behind the Seattle defense, running patiently through the penalty area before firing over Seattle goalkeeper Hope Solo and into the net.
FCKC doubled its lead in the 56th minute, when the pair combined again. This time Holiday dribbled into the heart of the penalty area before slipping the ball off to Rodriguez. It was the seventh time that duo had combined on a goal this season.
It also marked the first time the Reign had fallen two goals behind.
As the minutes wound down, Seattle began pushing the pace and the chances increased. In the 87th minute, they broke through, with Megan Rapinoe halving KC's lead to 2-1.
They continued to swarm in stoppage time, with Jessica Fishlock knocking a shot just wide. In the closing seconds Rapinoe had one last chance, but sent the ball across the goalmouth.
Finally, the whistle blew and the championship went to Kansas City.
“We knew it was going to be a battle all the way through,” FCKC coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We came ready to battle, and I'm just glad that the girls were focused all the way through for 90 minutes, because if you're not — if you let down for a second — you could see what happened. They can score at any point in time.”
The Reign was left to content itself with a season of progress that saw them jump from seventh place in 2013 to first in the 2014 regular season with a league-record 16-2-6 mark.
“It's hard really,” said Reign coach Laura Harvey, the NWSL coach of the year. “I think the way that's it's structured here the regular season doesn't mean anything. So you've got to perform on the day in a one-off game. I actually thought we did some really good stuff today, and we just conceded from our perspective sloppy goals and goals that we don't normally concede. I thought they defended really well against us. They made it really difficult. ... If the game had gone on five minutes more we probably would have gotten the equalizer.”
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