History repeated Thursday in a way the Seattle Reign had hoped to avoid.
For the second time in as many years, the Reign assembled the best record in the National Women’s Soccer League regular season but couldn’t complete its double in the championship game.
Instead, FC Kansas City defended its NWSL title with a 1-0 win before a crowd of 13,264 at Providence Park.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Seattle coach Laura Harvey said. “I think the way the league is set up, it’s sometimes hard to get your head around the structure, because we play each other all year and then we have to define ourselves by one game.
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“And ultimately if that’s what we have to learn from, we have to learn to be better in one game, which is hard to say.”
The lone goal came in the 78th minute — and largely against the run of play: a header from close range by Amy Rodriguez, Kansas City’s regular-season goals leader with six.
“I think we’ll be disappointed with the goal, just the buildup of the goal and the timing of it,” Harvey said. “… A cross in the box, and you know what A-Rod is going to do when she gets in those positions. … The longer the game goes on and you’re just not getting those breaks really, you just sense it might not be your night.”
Both teams had solid chances in the first half. In the 20th minute, Megan Rapinoe found Reign goals-leader Kim Little in space on the wing, but Little’s shot was cleanly handled by Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.
Seven minutes later, Kansas City’s Amy LePeilbet got to a ball in front of the Seattle net but sent her header just wide.
In the second half, the best chances shifted to Seattle. In the 52nd minute, Beverly Yanez sent a solid header at Barnhart. In the 63rd, Rapinoe rocketed the ball off the far post from 25 yards out.
Finally, it was Kansas City (10-6-5) that broke through, with Rodriguez providing the final touch on a counter that started around the middle of the pitch.
The Reign (13-4-4) had one more great chance, with Rapinoe getting the ball at her foot near the penalty spot, but her low, hard strike went right at Barnhart, who had three saves.
“I think we had our chances,” Rapinoe said. “I think that we could have been a little bit more aggressive with our finishing. I think that we sometimes want to make it too perfect, and a lot of times we can — we’re that good. …
“We had to test them a little bit more. We only had seven shots, which is definitely not enough for how much of the ball we had, especially in the second half.”
The final whistle made it back-to-back titles for Kansas City, which defeated the Reign 2-1 in last season’s final in Tukwila.
In the minutes between that whistle and the trophy presentation, Harvey gathered her team.
“I just said to them that I’m really disappointed for them, and I’m super proud of them,” she said. “I think when we watch the game back, we’ll be disappointed in the way we played at times, whereas last year it was so gut wrenching because we’d played so well. … Our group will stay together no matter what. This result won’t define who we are because we won’t allow it to.”
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