It was a season that began in January with loading up the moving boxes and filling out change of address form, but finally, Reign FC have begun their 2019 NWSL season. And they did so on the road at Houston Dash, playing to a draw in what really was a tale of two halves for Vlatko Andonovski’s squad.
Houston Dash opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Reign FC defender Theresa Nielsen had an unfortunate giveaway in the box that Nichelle Prince capitalized on to score.
The first half was all Houston Dash as they took full advantage of Reign FC not having the services of Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock (this was the first Reign FC opener where Fishlock was not in the starting eleven). Houston’s high press, courtesy of their midfield trio of Sofia Huerta, Sophie Schmidt, and former Reign FC player Christine Nairn, was nothing but disruptive for Reign FC’s time with the ball and stymied their ability to build the attack from the back.
And then there were the injuries in the first half.
First there was forward Jasmyne Spencer, who went down on no contact 20 minutes into the match and had to be stretchered off the field. At the time of post, the official word from the club is a left knee injury with no further details available likely until later into the week.
Then defender Megan Oyster had to exit the game in the 39th minute with a left ankle injury, though she was able to leave the field under her own power. This forced two injury substitutions for Reign FC, with Elise Kellond-Knight making her debut, replacing Spencer and pushing Shea Groom wide, and Kristen McNabb replacing Oyster.
The second half was a lot better for Reign FC, as forward Darian Jenkins opened her account for Reign FC with an equalizing goal in the 58th minute. Sure, it took a deflection off the Houston defender, but it was still a good display of what Jenkins can do on a one-on-one situation.
Both teams would have chances to claim a second goal after the Jenkins equalizer, with Jodie Taylor and Allie Long having chances in the 65th and 82nd minute, respectively.
For Houston, their efforts to pick up a second goal were far more heart-stopping as they knocked on Reign FC’s door plenty of times, but goalkeeper Michelle Betos came up bigger in the moments. Members of the Michelle Betos Appreciation Society better have renewed their cards for this season, as she clearly was the player of the match for Reign FC.
Reign FC actually had the final chance to claim the full three points on the road as they were awarded a penalty in stoppage time, when Dash goalkeeper Jane Campbell collected the ball in her box, and appeared to not take into account Jodie Taylor’s presence and referee Karen Abt judged that Campbell had tripped her. There was plenty of chatter on social media if the penalty was a soft one, but nonetheless, Reign FC had a chance to get the match-winner. However, Taylor’s penalty was stopped by Campbell and the match ended on a 1-1 draw.
In the grand picture, with the injuries to Spencer and Oyster, a draw is an outcome fans will take. It was a tale of two halves for Reign FC in their season opener and they were able to show some resilience to get an equalizing goal and a point on the road. And that goal came from seeing how much of a weapon Jenkins is on the field for them, and why she was touted as the prize acquisition of the off-season.
However, the loss of Spencer and Oyster to injury casts a shadow on the club for the immediate future and possibly beyond. Reign FC fans can only hope for the best with their recovery. The World Cup departures will happen and every club in the league will have the quality of their depth tested. Losing two starters to injury on opening weekend will only add to that test.
Reign FC’s next match is next Sunday as they welcome Orlando Pride for their home opener at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM and will be broadcast on Yahoo for US viewers, and the NWSL website for international viewers.
Reign FC at Houston Dash by the numbers
Goals & Assists
10’ Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash)
58’ Darian Jenkins (Reign FC) - assisted by Jodie Taylor
67’ Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash)
26’ Elise Kellond-Knight for Jasmyne Spencer (Reign FC)
40’ Kristen McNabb for Megan Oyster (Reign FC)
74’ Haley Hanson for Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash)
74’ Veronica Latsko for Kealia Ohai (Houston Dash)
86’ Bethany Balcer for Darian Jenkins (Reign FC)
Full Match Stats