Sounders Insider

Reign plays for spot in NWSL title game

Here’s a preview from the league:

Kim Little and Seattle Reign FC face off against Crystal Dunn and the Washington Spirit in an NWSL semifinal for the second consecutive year on Sunday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. PT on FOX Sports 1 at Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.

Reign FC topped Washington 2-1 in the playoffs last season - with midfielder Megan Rapinoe scoring the game-winning goal in the 82nd-minute - before losing to FC Kansas City in the 2014 NWSL Championship Game.

Seattle repeated the score line in a 2-1 road victory over the Spirit last week as the teams concluded the regular season. Midfielder Jess Fishlock and Rapinoe scored for the Reign, with midfielder Diana Matheson converting from the penalty spot for Washington.

The win for Seattle extended their current unbeaten run to eight games and allowed coach Laura Harvey's side to claim the season series over their visitors - with the Reign also claiming a 3-1 win over the Spirit on May 2 behind goals from forward Beverly Yanez, Fishlock and fellow midfielder Merritt Mathias.

However, Washington did hand Seattle its biggest loss of the season as Dunn and fellow forward Amanda DaCosta as well as midfielder Christine Nairn all scored in a 3-0 home win for the Spirit.

But if Washington want to avenge last year's playoff defeat and advance to the 2015 NWSL Championship Game, the Spirit will have to do something no team has done against Seattle - beat the Reign at Moda Pitch at Memorial Stadium.

The back-to-back NWSL Shield winners recorded their second consecutive undefeated regular-season at home this year and have not lost in 23 matches (regular season and playoffs) at Memorial Stadium. The Reign did lose at home to FC Kansas City in the 2014 NWSL Championship Game, but that match was at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Wash.

Seattle has been particular daunting at home this season - positing an 8-0-2 record in front of their own fans while averaging 2.60 goals per game.

Little - who followed up her record-setting, MVP-winning 2014 season with 10 goals and seven assists while playing all 20 matches this year - will certainly be counted to show up for the Reign.

In addition to Little, Harvey will also be hoping for big contributions from the No. 1-ranked offense in the league led by Fishlock (8 goals, 2 assists), Rapinoe (5 goals, 5 assists) as well as Yanez (9 goals) - who has not played in the three games since suffering a left hip strain August 21.

Seattle also comes into the game with the second-ranked defense in the league - led by goalkeeper Hope Solo and defenders Lauren Barnes, Kendall Fletcher, Stephanie Cox, Rachel Corsie and box-to-box midfielder Keelin Winters.

But if the Reign are going to reach the NWSL title game for the second consecutive season, they will have to overcome a Washington team led by Dunn, the league's top scorer in 2015.

The North Carolina product has been nothing short of sensational since making the move from defense to offense - scoring 15 goals to fall just one shy of matching Little's NWSL record set in 2014. Despite coming up short of that particular feat, Dunn did set a record with 0.75 goals-per-team-game this year - besting Little's 0.66 mark last season.

Dunn has also been particularly clutch this year, with six of her 15 tallies coming as game-winning goals.

However, coach Mark Parsons will want to see key contributions from Nairn (5 goals, 4 assists), Matheson (3 goals, 2 assists) as well as DaCosta (3 goals) and forward Francisca Ordega (3 goals, 2 assists).

Parsons will also be looking to U.S. international defender Ali Krieger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to help provide a veteran presence at the back as Washington goes in search of just their third victory away from home all season.

The Spirit have made a habit out of getting to their opponents early in games this season - with their 16 first-half goals the most in the NWSL.

Taking a lead into halftime could be especially important for Washington - as Seattle boast the most second-half goals in the league (26) as well as an NWSL-best plus-13 goal difference in the final 45 minutes of matches this season.

But both teams will want to go into the break with the lead seeing as just two teams this season - Reign FC and Portland Thorns FC - were able to rally for a victory after trailing at halftime.

Tickets for Sunday's NWSL Semifinal between Seattle Reign FC and Washington Spirit may be purchased by visiting

www.reignfc.com/semifinal.

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