I would probably pay good money to watch Laura Harvey and Mark Parsons play chess.
It’s not just that they are, as their fellow Englishpeople would say, bloody brilliant. It’s the fact that entertaining eccentricities and stunning plays just seem to follow them around.
Consider tonight’s game, where the turning point apparently came during the pregame introductions, when the Spirit’s PA announcer gave Hope Solo’s number the wrong number: No. 2 rather than No. 1. A quick correction, drawing a thumbs-up and a smile from Solo, apparently didn’t appease fiery Reign player Jess Fishlock.
“I think it got chippy because — I have so much respect for Washington Spirit as an organization, and I have so much respect for Ashlyn, but what they did at the beginning of the game to disrespect Hope Solo, a goalkeeper that’s won the Golden Glove in the World Cup, is actually a little bit disgusting. So that’s why we had a bit of a chip on our shoulder, because we protect our teammates, and it’s just unnecessary to do that.”
Wait a minute — what? Was it something the Spirit Squadron said? Was it the incident late in the game in which Solo was banged up in a multiplayer collision, though it didn’t seem upon live viewing that any one person was to blame. (The ref had a different opinion, but based on the absurd calls and non-calls throughout the game, I refuse to take that opinion seriously. Some serious conversations need to take place between the NWSL and PRO. This is ridiculous. Are we going to wait until a game gets totally out of control and a national team player breaks a leg?)
“They announced Hope Solo as No. 2, and I think that’s a little bit disgusting.”
A couple of us who have been to a lot of Spirit games were compelled to tell her it absolutely could not have been intentional. That’s not the first idiosyncrasy we’ve heard over the PA at a Spirit game.
Here’s the deal: The announcer writes a few numerical cues on the margin of the paper to get the order correct. The captain is the first person announced — so, No. 1. Goalkeeper is second, No. 2. Easy to transpose the two columns — the order in which players are announced, and the jersey number.
And that’s easier to believe than “Hmmm, maybe I can make a subtle jab suggesting Solo should be Ashlyn Harris’ backup on the national team. I’ll say she’s No. 2.”
The other curious thing about it, as Spirit broadcast commentator Danielle Malagari points out:
@duresport how many fouls were there in the first half? Not many. Didn't get chippy til later in 2nd half….
— Danielle Malagari (@dmags27) September 6, 2015
But as puzzling as Fishlock’s comments were, Harvey pointed to some weird, wild stuff on the Reign’s trip to the nation’s … distant suburb of the capital.
“If you’d looked at our Washington trip, you would’ve thought everything went against us. We couldn’t train yesterday because of lightning, we had wake-up calls at 8 a.m. from the hotel … I joke with Mark, I know that’s not him. But maybe the announcer thing is the icing on the cake.”
If you really want to draw out the conspiracy theory, you’d note that all of the league’s hotel information was recently posted by a reporter … in Portland! Seattle’s big rival!
But who would call and leave a prank wake-up call for 8 a.m.? Is that considered early by some people? I have kids and dogs. By 8 a.m., I’m sometimes considering a nap.
Harvey, though, clearly wasn’t taking such talk seriously. The game, on the other hand, was something she took quite seriously despite having nothing at stake, while the Spirit needed a win to have a chance to host a playoff game.
“I actually spoke to Mark in the week. We speak daily. And we joke around. But I said to him I’m going to come and try to win the game in the sense that I think that’s the right thing to do. I could’ve come here and not played Hope, not played Pinoe (who was subbed out early in the second half, perhaps as much because her tackles seemed hell-bent on getting a nice suspension for the playoffs as any need to rest), not played Jess and not played Kim. The reality is people have paid good money to watch a good game. I’m sure they want to see the Spirit again at home (in the playoffs), but it wouldn’t have been right or fair on my team or the league if I hadn’t have come to win.”
And early on, Harvey’s game plan worked beautifully. Defenders were in place to stop the Crystal Dunn counterattacking menace. The Reign swung the ball around, playing a semi-direct style to put attackers in against Spirit defenders, who struggled to contain them. They were running the Reign attack toward defenders other than Megan Oyster, whom Laura Harvey touted for league Rookie of the Year honors.
Fishlock thought the tired Reign players didn’t execute quite as well as fatigue set in. And the Spirit indeed had some good moments late in the first half and early in the second.
Every other aspect of the game seems debatable. Parsons and Diana Matheson were pretty positive when talking about the Spirit’s performance. Ashlyn Harris was not. Parsons is still bullish on playing Ali Krieger in midfield, saying she contained Kim Little. I still don’t think Krieger looks comfortable there, and I know others agree. (That said — Little didn’t have quite as much impact on the game today as she has in the past.)
A few stray notes:
Predmore vs. the fourth official and others: Reign owner Bill Predmore was behind the Seattle bench tonight. Some Spirit staffers objected. The fourth official had a prolonged conversation with him right around the time the Reign scored their second goal.
I don’t know NWSL protocol for that situation. I just hope the Spirit volunteer got her phone back.
Seen in the stands: Former Philadelphia Independence owner David Halstead.
Plex problems: We’re now keeping our food out of the pressbox because food might attract critters who might chew through the cables that keep the Spirit’s fine broadcast connected to YouTube. That speaks volumes about the state of the Soccerplex right now.
It’s a beautiful field. It’s a beautiful venue. It’s fun to have fans so close to the action. The air always feels fresh.
But the facilities are in dire need of upgrades.
Also, new this season, traffic! I left the parking lot at 9:45 p.m., about 45 minutes after the game ended. Took me 15 minutes to get out of the Plex.
Behind me — the Reign’s bus.
Yeah, their strange trip continues.
See you again in eight days — this time in Seattle, this time with a trip to the final at stake.