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Reign opens season with surprising loss

Seattle Reign rookie defender Carson Pickett pushes forward onto the attack in season opener against Sky Blue FC at Memoiral Stadium.
Seattle Reign rookie defender Carson Pickett pushes forward onto the attack in season opener against Sky Blue FC at Memoiral Stadium. Staff writer

The Seattle Reign’s fourth NWSL opening day was spoiled by Sky Blue FC, which took a surprising 2-1 win Sunday before an announced crowd of 3,987 at Memorial Stadium.

It was the Reign’s first loss in 23 home matches since moving to Seattle Center in 2014. On top of that, Seattle has had the best regular-season record each of the past two seasons, while the visitors from New Jersey missed the playoffs both years.

“I don’t think we deserved to get anything out of the game today,” coach Laura Harvey said. “That’s hard to say because when you come in -- home opener, and you’ve waited so long -- and you don’t perform, it’s difficult to swallow. But that’s how I thought it went. We never really got going.”

The Reign started much as expected: commanding the run of play. However, Sky Blue struck first, with Tasha Kai getting free of the Reign defense and heading in a cross from Kelley O’Hara.

Seattle equalized in the 53rd minute when Jessica Fishlock popped a chip across the goal to Merritt Mathias who headed it in at the far post.

However, in the 68th Sky Blue answered with a similar goal of its own. In this case, it was Taylor Lytle crossing and Kelly Conheeney finishing.

The Reign pushed forward regularly after that, and forced Caroline Casey into a couple of diving saves. But nothing else got past her.

The Reign heads across country next weekend for an April 24 match at Boston. They return home May 1 to face defending champion FC Kansas City.

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