They were just a handful of minutes away from that. However, a 90th minute goal by former Reign FC player Christine Nairn saw Sunday’s match at Cheney Stadium end with a 1-1 draw.
Houston Dash had a chance to strike first in the 30th minute when they were awarded a penalty after a handball in the box was called on Reign FC midfielder Morgan Andrews. Houston’s Sofia Huerta took the penalty, but her effort was wide left.
Houston Dash head coach James Clarkson joked after the match that Huerta probably won’t be taking anymore penalties for the Dash, but said it was just one of those things that can happen in the game. Surely, Reign FC fans will have flashbacks to the season opener at Houston Dash and can relate.
What could have been a momentum swing for the visitors quickly turned to Reign FC’s favor when in the 32nd minute with Bethany Balcer received a Darian Jenkins pass to curl it past Houston’s goalkeeper Jane Campbell. The goal wasn’t without controversy as Balcer was flagged offside by the assistant referee, but center referee Tori Penso overruled it and awarded the goal to Reign FC. When asked by the match pool reporter about overruling the AR, Penso said that the ball had been, “deliberately played by a defender.”
While Reign FC and their fans were happy that Balcer claimed her third goal on the season, naturally Houston Dash and their fans were not. Defender Amber Brooks tweeted her displeasure of the call not too long after the match.
The goal did come at a price as before the restart, forward Darian Jenkins had to be subbed out due to injury and then a couple of minutes after the change for Jenkins, midfielder Kristen McNabb had an early exit due to injury. Ifeoma Onumonu and Morgan Proffitt would replace Jenkins and McNabb, respectively. Post-match, Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski wasn’t able to provide updates to either injury, so Reign FC fans can only hope that the week off from league play will help in their recoveries.
Influenced heavily by Reign FC’s need to make two injury substitutions, the Dash were able to establish more time with the ball and launch attacks on Reign FC’s goal. Led by captain Kealia Ohai, Houston put pressure on Reign goalkeeper Casey Murphy, but did not get one past her just yet. For Reign FC, the injury substitutions did force the team to re-sync to their game plan, but Andonovski was happy that they eventually got there, though ultimately disappointed they weren’t able to close out the match for the full three points.
They certainly had their chances, as once Onumonu got settled into the match, she and forward Shea Groom decided to switch positions and it was effective in giving Houston’s back line trouble. However, the chances Reign FC had lacked finish to get that second and possibly third goal to close it out. Quite possibly Reign FC’s best attempt to get a second goal came in the 67th minute, when Jess Fishlock put in this amazing free kick that was bested by an even more amazing save by Campbell.
Oh if this Jess Fishlock free kick had beaten Houston's Jane Campbell, Cheney Stadium would have gone ballistic.— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) June 2, 2019
Props to Campbell, that's a Save of the Week nominee. #RFCvHOU #seavhou pic.twitter.com/KuAYidH0oa
And the lack of closing out the match would ultimately favor Houston Dash as it kept them in the game. In the 90th minute, Dash (and former Reign FC) midfielder Christine Nairn struck from just outside the 18 yard box to equalize and leave Cheney Stadium with a draw.
It’s frustrating that they were just a handful of minutes away from claiming their third win in a row and really showing signs that Cheney Stadium is becoming a fortress for them. Andonovski praised his team for being able to adapt to two injuries the first half and effort to claim another goal, but with injuries hitting two starters, fans are right to have some concerns. Time will tell on how much time Jenkins and McNabb will miss, as well as midfielder Bev Yanez with her sprained ankle. Hopefully the league-wide week off in observance of the start of the World Cup in France will give the squad enough time to recover from the ailments.
Reign FC will return to league play on Saturday, June 15, once again in the friendly confines of Cheney Stadium as they host the Washington Spirit. That match will also serve as the club’s annual Pride Match in observance of June being LGBTQ Pride Month. The match is scheduled for a 7 PM kickoff time.