Winless Reign make home debut tonight

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMay 4, 2013 

If tight games put bums on seats – as Seattle Reign coach Laura Harvey would say – then the National Women’s Soccer League is doing its part.

Nine of the league’s 11 games have ended in draws or one-goal margins, and none have been decided by more than two goals.

Over the Reign’s first three games, it has played to a draw, lost by one goal and two goals. However, the club hopes to benefit from its first home-field advantage today when it meets FC Kansas City at 8 p.m. at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. (The game will be streamed online at NWSLsoccer.com.)

“I think the girls are just happy not to go on an airplane, to be honest,” Harvey said. “I think that, more than anything else, has been a biggie this week: that we can just get ourselves right.

“To be able to get a good crowd here and feel what it’s like to have a home game is going to be just huge for us.”

Reign owner Bill Predmore said it is club policy not to discuss ticket sales – except when the 3,800 available tickets are sold out, which is not expected tonight.

“I think we’ll do OK, honestly,” he said. “The weather could help. It should be a beautiful night: nice and warm.”

Ticket sales and other off-field measures have particular meaning as the NWSL strives to succeed where two other leagues have failed in efforts to create an ongoing top-level women’s league in the United States.

Attendance figures are not available in the box scores or among the statistics on the league website. However, impressions are being formed as the Reign already has visited nearly half the eight-team league on trips to Chicago, Portland and Kansas City.

“I think there are still a lot of things collectively as a league that we want to be better at,” said Harvey, who came to Seattle after coaching the Arsenal Ladies in England’s top league. “Obviously, sustainability is crucial for this league to be successful. And how you get sustainability, I’m not sure we’ve decided exactly how you get that to happen. Bums on seats – as we say back home – is definitely important. People being (interested) is obviously massively important. We feel like we’re gradually gaining more interest. But ultimately, if those fans don’t come through the gate, then it doesn’t really matter.”

On the pitch, Harvey said she has been struck by the offensive-orientation of American women, and the parity of the rosters, which were formed primarily through allocation by the league.

“The difference between the teams that win games compared with the teams that maybe have only drawn or lost games is very minute,” she said. “I don’t think you’re going to see 6-, 7-, 8-nil victories to either team unless someone has a very, very off day. That’s probably credit to the league in how they structured the initial process.”

That balance could be on display again tonight, as the Reign is at the bottom of the league at 0-2-1, while Kansas City is unbeaten at 1-0-1.

Reign midfielder Jessica Fishlock, who followed Harvey from England and was a two-time Women’s Super League Club Player of the Year, was named NWSL player of the week in Week 2 when she scored Seattle’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss at Portland. Seattle’s only other goal this season was scored by midfielder Christine Nairn – the club’s historic first goal in its debut draw at Chicago.

The Reign was shut out in its two-goal loss at Kansas City last week. However, the club hopes to receive an offensive boost as forwards Kristina Larsen and Tiffany Cameron round into form.

“Having some forwards, I think, is going to contribute to a goal or two,” Predmore said. “I think things are headed in the right direction.”

Another boost is expected next month when U.S. national team members Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe are scheduled to become available.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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