Through the first seven games of the inaugural NWSL season, the Seattle Reign were indisputably the worst team in the league. After capturing only 1 point through seven games and riding a six-game losing streak, everyone knew Seattle was in trouble. The team had scored a total of 4 goals over those games while letting in a whopping 15 goals over the same stretch resulting in a -11 goal differential; the worst in the league by a long shot. No one was talking playoffs. Many were just hoping for a win. The Reign looked hopeless.
Then along came a glimmer of hope: Hope Solo.
While her first two games were both losses, there were still some positive aspects to be noticed. During those first seven “Hope-less” games, the Reign were averaging 2.14 goals against per game. In Solo’s first two starts, Seattle averaged just 1 goal against; and it must be noted that one of those goals was a highly controversial PK against Portland.
Over Solo’s next six starts Seattle would go undefeated, winning four of six. The Reign had Hope and Hope had given them hope.
Coming into this weekend, with Solo in goal, the Reign have lowered their goals-against per-game average by over 1 goal. Incredibly, they are averaging just 1.125 goals against per game. Only three goalkeepers in the league (who have played more than five games) are experiencing lower goals-against per-game.
When looking at Solo’s abilities to make saves, it becomes even clearer why her presence has helped turn the Reign’s season around. In her eight games she has racked up a massive 52 saves; a league leading average of 6.5 saves per game. To put this into perspective, Sky Blue’s Brittany Cameron, who leads the league in clean sheets, has made 4 more saves (56) in a total of 16 starts (twice as many as Solo’s 8).
While Solo’s arrival in Seattle may not have single-handedly saved the Reign’s season, it has most definitely had a significant impact. “Hope-less” Seattle was winless and had 1 point in seven games. In their last eight games (with Hope), Seattle has recorded four wins (more than any other team over the same stretch) and a total of 14 points (also more than any other team over the same stretch).
Seattle currently sits 7th in the league with 15 points. They are the hottest team in the NWSL and are playing some great soccer. More importantly, Solo’s arrival has positioned the Reign to potentially make a miraculous run at the playoffs.
While many still see Seattle making the playoffs as a long shot, it is statistically possible for Seattle to reach the playoffs, especially with Solo in goal. If the Reign continue in current form for the remainder of the season, the race for the playoffs may be tighter and more scintillating than originally imagined.
What do you think? What kind of an impact has Solo made on the Reign’s season? Will they make the playoffs?
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @NWSLStatsMan