Seattle has long been a football friendly city in America, to the point where both men and women have a team in the top leagues. That and maybe the fact that Seattle Reign has a bit of a special connection with Arsenal must have contributed to the Ladies coming to play a match on the opposite side of the world. Andrew will surely remember Laura Harvey, who guided Arsenal Ladies to the treble in 2011, and is now head coach and GM of Seattle Reign. Also, Kim Little played 5 seasons for Arsenal, between 2008 and 2013, before joining the Seattle team.
The match comes at the end of a 4 match unbeaten streak for the Arsenal Ladies. Last time they were on the field only a few days ago, drawing nil-nil with Doncaster Rovers Belles. Arsenal brought for this match the whole roster, all their stars making quite a long trip to the US West Coast. The time difference between Seattle and London is 8 hours, but that didn’t matter, as it was plainly obvious the match was going to be a full featured one. In fact, Arsenal had arrived in Seattle early, and had a training session, plus a meeting with the local Arsenal fan club, Cascadia Gooners.
Seattle Reign F.C. are one of the most successful teams in the US women’s soccer. They play in the National Women’s Soccer League starting from 2013, and won the last 2 regular seasons, qualifying for the play-offs, where they ended runner-up both times. The home ground is Memorial Stadium, placed right near the iconic Space Needle, with a maximum seating capacity of 12000, of which 6000 seats are available for match attendance. The pitch is the same size as the one at the Emirates (surprise surprise), the difference is that the turf is artificial – and this is a detail that will show during the match. They are currently in 6th place in the NWSL standings, having lost Megan Rapinoe on long term injury, plus Jesse Fishlock who is just coming back.
I must say I have a lot of praise for the Seattle Reign’s PR. Having heard I’m going to cover the match for Untold, they provided me with a media pass, which not only gave me access to the press room high above the ground, but also to the post-match press conference. So, thank you Seattle Reign for making me a journalist – which is quite different compared to the kind of treatment that Mr. Wenger has to put up with every time.
The teams took to the field in the following formations:
Michelle Cruz Lauren Barnes Rachel Corsie Carson Pickett
Lindsay Elston Jess Fishlock Kim Little
Havana Solaun Paige Nielsen Beverly Yanez
Reserves: Haley Kopmeyer (GK), Andi Tostanoski (GK), Elli Reed, Kendall Fletcher, Kelly Beck, McKenzie Karas, Keelin Winters, Kathryn Bennett, Erica Shelton, Kiersten Dallstream, Merritt Mathias, Rebecca Candler
Jemma Rose Josephine Henning Emma Mitchell
Dominique Janssen Leah Williamson Vicky Losada Jordan Nobbs Marta Corredera
Danielle Carter Jodie Taylor
On the beach: Sari van Veennendaal (GK), Alex Scott, Natalia Pablos, Katie McCabe, Danielle van de Donk, Asisat Oshala, Chloe Kelly
At the start of the match, Arsenal put pressure high up the field, but Seattle Reign defend well. This is one area that worked for them at the start of the season, and it shows, as they are impenetrable and able to recover, despite the occasional giveaway in the midfield. Reign gradually take control, and Yanez has a first opportunity in the 4th minute, but Arsenal clear the ball for a throw.
The first corner comes in the 6th minute, and it’s Reign who sends the ball in the box, without result. The match heats up a bit, and a clash in the midfield leaves Williamson injured in the 7th minute, and she needs to be taken off on a stretcher. Alex Scott comes in her place, and Arsenal seems to revert to a 4-4-2. This early sub seems to unsettle Arsenal a bit, because Reign take control and they press in the midfield for the next 10 minutes, missing one good opportunity when Nielsen is blocked in the box by the Arsenal keeper.
The goal comes in the 17th minute, and not surprising it’s Reign who score. A well worked ball starting on the right, then a diagonal pass cuts through the Arsenal defense, the keeper is out of the frame but can’t get to the ball quick enough, and Yanez curls a beautiful shot in the top right corner from just inside the box. It was the first shot on goal, yet one that gave the keeper no chance.
The next few minutes, Arsenal increased their effort, getting off-side once, but Reign manage to keep tight and the Arsenal attacks break down around the box, plus Hope Solo gathers the ball on a couple of occasions. The closest Arsenal can get to shoot is from 25 yards out. The final ball is missing.
In the 32nd minute Reign make a substitution: Jess Fishlock, who has just recovered from a broken foot, and is on the pitch amazingly only 4 weeks after the accident, is replaced by Kendall Fletcher. Reign continue to attack, and a ball is deflected over the bar by an Arsenal defender. Pedro Losa has a few words with his players just before the break, but it’s still Reign with the last opportunity of the half, shooting over the bar. Seattle Reign passed the ball better in this half, were more efficient pressing, and had the better opportunities. Arsenal, for their part, could only manage 1 shot, who didn’t test the US Women’s National Team goalkeeper.
A few substitutions from Arsenal, as usual in friendlies: van Veenendaal, Natalia, Oshala and van de Donk come on, Byrne, Carter, Taylor and Marta are off. Arsenal emerge from the dressing room with more determination, and the match gets quite physical, with even more pressing, and Arsenal start creating chances. A shot over the bar in the 51st minute, a scissor kick that almost succeeds in the 52nd, and a shot close to the goal in the 54th. The match gets feisty and van de Donk is booked for a late aerial challenge. Reign reply with a few balls over the Arsenal defense, but the goalie is there to collect.
Arsenal dominating now, but the spaces are hard to find. Still, after a cross that bounced across the goal, allowing the Reign keeper to collect, Arsenal move the ball from right to left, and the move brings Natalia into the box, where her shirt is pulled, and the ref awards a penalty. Apparently, the Ladies have an easier time getting this kind of calls. Natalia calmly dispatches from 12 yards. 1-1 in the 64th minute, and the Arsenal’s domination has paid off.
Seattle Reign reply on the counter on a few occasions, and the newly introduced Dallstream almost steals the ball from the Arsenal’s keeper, after a bit of a mix-up with a defender, but the keeper is able to grab the ball, and the only result is a free kick to Arsenal.
Both sides make more subs, and from here on, Arsenal’s midfield regain control, and they never really allow Seattle to come back into the game. Oshala’s sprints on the right flank were posing problems to her opponent and in minute 77 a combination with Natalia left the latter alone with Haley Kopmeyer, only for the keeper to block the low shot.
Overall the artificial turf made the long balls problematic, as they were bouncing out, and that put a limit on the number of opportunities. Arsenal controlled the proceedings until the end, but never quite managed to put the ball into the net, despite a few shots that went over the bar. Overall, a match played with pace and energy, between two teams with similar styles, who split the stats between them in both possession and goals.
After the match, the press conference was attended by Jess Fishlock, Laura Harvey, Pedro Losa and Paige Nielsen. I will not reproduce everything they said, only a few points:
For Jess Fishlock, it was mostly an opportunity to check her recovery progress. She felt good after 5 minutes, and there is a chance she can play next Sunday at their rivals Portland.
Pedro Losa was happy with his team, the way they managed to play against an opponent that put them problems physically and tactically, on a surface that lets the ball bounce a bit more than usual, and it took a bit of time to the team to adapt. It was important to keep the team at a high level of fitness, for the upcoming matches.
Laura Harvey was happy that the match went according to her plan and the players responded to the challenge. She reiterated the great relationship that her club has with Arsenal, and is hopeful of returning the visit in the future.
Paige Nielsen enjoyed her run out, and counted this match as a valuable experience against the great Arsenal team, while also staying focused on the league matches ahead.
As for me, seeing the Ladies playing was incredible, as they showcased their FA Cup win with a superb display of technical and tactical completeness, against an opponent that is in great form after a difficult start of the season.
- FITNESS TO PRACTICE ABSOLUTE AND TRUE AKBISM
- Delving into our criminal past (and its got nothing – well not much – to do with Arsenal…)
- The evidence that games in the Premier League might have been fixed in 2015/16
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page