Seeking their first win on the season may have been their objective, but the result was a scoreless draw, but it certainly was not for lack of effort and action. And perhaps under the backdrop of the Spirit hosting their “Star Wars” theme night, The Force was definitely strong with Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Reign FC applied the pressure right from kickoff, as they by far had more dangerous looks and shots on Washington’s goal, forcing Bledsoe into a lot of work. Washington to their credit weathered what Reign FC were giving them and even had a couple spells to put Reign FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos to work. While Reign FC looked a lot better coming off Sunday’s dismal performance at Chicago Red Stars, for all the knocking at Washington’s door, they weren’t able to get a goal in the first half.
The second half started out similar to the first with both sides trading probes, hoping to open up the scoring. While Reign FC had more promising looks in the first half to open the scoring, it was in the 72nd minute where Jodie Taylor almost broke the deadlock. Her touch was initially corralled by Bledsoe, but she then spilled it, almost allowing the ball to crawl into the goal.
The Aubrey Bledsoe Show would continue on as in the 85th minute as Bethany Balcer would get a virtually point-blank shot and Bledsoe was lightning-quick to react to punch it out.
Two minutes later, after Washington’s Cheyna Matthews was booked for a handball just outside the penalty box, Elise Kellond-Knight took a free kick that most likely on any other day, crashes into the back of the net.
However, Bledsoe was just superhuman tonight for Washington and she had to be. For all the looks Reign FC had on Saturday night, Bledsoe was where she needed to be to stop them and keep a well-deserved clean sheet. After Kellond-Knight’s free kick, the action to find a match-winning goal resembled something like two boxers just throwing bombs from box to box and the crowd at the Maryland SoccerPlex rose with the tension at the possibility of a walk-off goal. Alas, the night ended with the scoreless draw as Reign FC’s defense and goalkeeper Michelle Betos were able to manage the strongest of attacks by Washington.
And on the other side, well Aubrey Bledsoe stood on her head. Simple as that.
It is frustrating that Reign FC still have not claimed a win a month into the season, but their performance tonight was everything last Sunday at Chicago wasn’t. The absences of Megan Rapinoe, Jess Fishlock, and Steph Catley to engineer and finish the attack still cast a shadow. However it’s a shadow that could be turning into a shining light as we’re just a couple of weeks away from the returns of Catley and Fishlock to the starting lineup.
Speaking of returns, forward Darian Jenkins returned to the starting lineup tonight, though only going for 45 minutes, perhaps by design. She was replaced at halftime by Bethany Balcer.
It will be a couple of weeks before Reign FC return to the field, but at least it will be within the friendly confines of their new home, Cheney Stadium. They’re off next week and resume league play on Saturday, May 18, hosting Sky Blue FC. Kickoff for that is scheduled for 1 PM.