The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
The Seattle Reign host FC Kansas City for NWSL championship
The Seattle Reign, with the best record in the NWSL this season, has home field advantage for the league championship on Sunday. Well, kind of.
The Reign will face FC Kansas City in the title game on Sunday at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Washington. That was Seattle's home last season, the first for the U.S. women's pro soccer league, and the team's current training field.
The game can't be played at Memorial because of scheduling conflicts the Bumbershoot arts and music festival, and the only viable option was Starfire.
"We spent a lot of time at Starfire last year, we train there every day and we're training there as much as we possibly can during the week to get ourselves back to being used to the surroundings," Reign coach Laura Harvey said, looking positively at the move. "Anyone who has been to Starfire knows that it's an exceptional football facility.
The Reign played home games this season at Memorial Stadium, where they were 8-0-4. Seattle has best overall record in the NWSL at 16-2-6.
The Reign defeated the Washington Spirit 2-1 last Sunday to advance to the championship match. The Blues defeated the defending champion Portland Thorns 1-0 in Kansas City last Saturday.
The Blues and the Reign have met twice before at Starfire, with FCKC winning both 1-0.
The Reign have a talented roster that includes U.S. national team goalkeeper Hope Solo, along with Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe, along with midfielder Kim Little — who was named the NWSL Most Valuable player of the Year. Little had an NWSL record 16 goals this season, including four that came after the 89th minute.
Coach Harvey earned Coach of the Year honours.
"Not only is her knowledge about football just second to none, also her man management is probably is probably the best I've ever seen," Seattle midfielder Jess Fishlock said on a conference call this week with reporters. "If you put those things together then you'll always have, not only a team that is a happy camp on and off the field whether things go well or things go bad, but you also have a club — if you ask any of us I don't think there's anywhere we'd rather be."
Kansas City, which finished second in the regular season standings at 12-7-5, fell to the Thorns 3-2 in the semifinals last season.
"To make it to the final is definitely very rewarding, but we still feel like we have some unfinished business from last year," said FCKC defender Leigh Ann Robinson said. "We're hungry, ready and excited to get this far and I think we match up well with Seattle in terms of both teams liking to play through the midfield."
The Blues are known for their defence, which features Robinson, Nikki Phillips and U.S. national team defender Becky Sauerbrunn, as well as goal keeper Nicole Barnhart, with a 1.33 goals-against average.
"You've got the two teams that finished first and second and were most consistent throughout the league," Fishlock said. "The games we've had against each other have all been really exciting and I think that will be exactly the same on Sunday. It will literally be a case of the best team on the day will win because I don't think there's much between us at all."
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