After a week off to recover, Reign FC (0-1-3) returns home on Saturday, where they hope to earn their first win of 2019 against Sky Blue FC (0-3-2). The match kicks off at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma at 1 PM PT and is part of a double-header with the Tacoma Defiance. The game can also be streamed on Yahoo Sports.
While Sky Blue struggled on and off the field last season, they have shown a few signs of turning things around this year. The club brought in new front-office management, got better housing and additional amenities for players, and is still searching for its first win of the season — but already earned two impressive draws against the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage.
Head coach Denise Reddy has been trying to get her squad to play a more possession-focused style of play, and they’ve been helped in that effort by the play of Naho Kawasumi. The former Reign FC midfielder was traded to Sky Blue in the offseason at her request, as she sought more playing time in a bid to make another World Cup roster (which she sadly didn’t). Kawasumi, beloved by Reign fans, will be honored before the match as a Reign FC Legend.
Sky Blue has looked more dangerous in the attack since forward/midfielder Savannah McCaskill got healthy. Earning her first start last week, she was a constant creator. As she gets her form, she’ll have the speedy Imani Dorsey — 2018 Rookie of the Year — to find on the wings. And she’ll benefit from the much stronger play by Raquel Rodriguez to kick the season off, who was 2016 Rookie of the Year.
Where Sky Blue continues to struggle is on lock-down defense across all 90 minutes. They held North Carolina scoreless, but are prone to turning off at dangerous moments — including set-piece plays. They’ll be missing veteran centerback Estelle Johnson, who will represent Cameroon in this year’s World Cup.
The points feel like Reign FC’s for the taking, but they’ll need to be sharper on the offensive end this time around.
Absences: Injury, international duty and suspension
OUT: Jasmyne Spencer (SEI – Knee), Taylor Smith (SEI – Knee), Elise Kellond-Knight (Hamstring) | INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Megan Rapinoe (USA), Allie Long (USA), Celia Jimenez Delgado (ESP)
OUT: Mandy Freeman (Right achilles tendon repair), Madison Tiernan (Left ACL/MCL sprain) | INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Carli Lloyd (USA), Estelle Johnson (Cameroon), Kailen Sheridan (CAN)
Keys to the Match
- Finish those set pieces: Reign FC had plenty of corners and free kicks against Washington in their last match, but couldn’t take advantage of them.
- Relentless high press: Pressure Sky Blue into bad passes or giveaways high up the field.
- Less reliance on crosses: The Reign have crossed far too often this season, a sign that their attack needs more diversity. The team needs to put balls through and cut them back into the box, using crosses at advantageous moments — not in desperation.
Here’s how Reign FC are lining up this afternoon.
Here is your Reign FC Starting XI for today's match against @SkyBlueFC. Kickoff at 1:00 p.m. at Cheney Stadium!#RFC253 #RFCvNJ pic.twitter.com/QN8PF4u79J— Reign FC (@ReignFC) May 18, 2019
Here’s how the visiting Sky Blue FC have lined up.
Back to business ⚽️ Starting XI #SEAvNJ #SBFC pic.twitter.com/i6lGVZFIl1— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) May 18, 2019
How to Watch
When: Saturday, May 18 at 1 PM PT
Where: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma
Live stream (for users in the U.S.): Watch on Yahoo! Sports
Live stream (for users outside the U.S.): Watch on the NWSL website
More info: How to stream NWSL matches in 2019
Join the Discussion
This is your Reign FC v. Sky Blue gamethread. Head to @rovalks on Twitter for real-time updates, or join the conversation in the comments below.