The Washington Post

Megan Rapinoe’s late goal lifts Seattle Reign over Washington Spirit




Megan Rapinoe scored in the 82nd minute Sunday as the Seattle Reign came from behind in the late stages to defeat the upset-minded Washington Spirit, 2-1, in a National Women’s Soccer League semifinal in Seattle.

The top seeds (17-2-6) will host second-seeded FC Kansas City in next Sunday’s final (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Kansas City (13-7-5) advanced with a 2-0 victory over the defending champion Portland Thorns on Saturday.

The fourth-seeded Spirit (10-10-5) went ahead in the 66th minute on substitute Veronica Perez‘s first goal of the year. Diana Matheson and Christine Nairn combined on the left side to unlock Seattle’s defense. Matheson crossed back to the unmarked Perez, who ripped an eight-yard left-footed shot over Hope Solo. Perez had entered the game just four minutes earlier.

The lead lasted six minutes. Defender Toni Pressley, who escaped a penalty kick call in the first half, was whistled for a handball near the end line. Kim Little‘s first attempt was nullified by a teammate’s encroachment, but she converted the re-take for her 17th goal of the year.

The Spirit had a golden chance to reclaim the lead in the 78th minute, but after a Seattle handball in the box, Solo pushed Matheson’s penalty kick off the crossbar.

Seattle, unbeaten at home, broke the tie when Rapinoe, a U.S. national team midfielder, poked the ball from Pressley and raced into the penalty area before unleashing a 12-yard shot that beat Ashlyn Harris to the near side.

In the first half, although Seattle had pronounced advantages in possession and territory, the Spirit mustered three high-quality opportunities. Solo made back-to-back saves on Kerstin Garefrekes and Jodie Taylor in the opening moments, then thwarted Garefrekes’s close-range volley deep in the 27th minute.

Harris was just as sharp in her first match back from a two-game absence caused by a concussion. She stopped shots from distance by Naho Kawasumi and Little, the league’s leading scorer in the regular season.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.



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Steven Goff · August 24, 2014