The road trip continues for Reign FC as they traveled down Interstate 5 to that familiar foe, the Portland Thorns FC. The first installment in 2019 of the Cascadia rivalry went to Reign FC as they beat rival Portland Thorns 1-0 on a 55th minute goal by Celia Jiménez Delgado.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski likely let out a sigh of relief as he got some of his World Cup players back for tonight. Australian defender Steph Catley returned to her usual left back spot, while Spanish defender Celia Jiménez Delgado was slotted at the top of the midfield trio.
The first half was not good for Reign FC on the offensive front. Save for a couple of looks early in the first 45, Reign FC did not get any time on the ball in the midfield to get attackers Ifeoma Onumonu, Bethany Balcer, and Shea Groom involved. The first half belonged to Portland as the returning Christine Sinclair naturally kept Reign FC defenders honest, opening up lanes for Midge Purce and Ellie Carpenter to make runs down the flank.
As the first half drew to a close, that’s when Portland turned up the attack and they likely would have claimed a goal if it weren’t for Reign FC goalkeeper Casey Murphy being exactly who she is and cool under pressure. Murphy’s biggest moment without a doubt was in the 44th minute.
It was so nice, so essential to keep it scoreless after the first 45, let’s watch it again.
The second half was a lot better for your favorite NWSL team.
Reign FC were able to establish time with the ball and whatever talk and adjustments Andonovski made during the halftime break worked because their moment of glory came in the 55th minute.
Right back Celia Jiménez Delgado, who was slotted in the attacking midfielder position tonight, pounced on a pass back from Ifeoma Onumonu off a Lauren Barnes free kick that took flight and swooshed past Portland’s goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom for the game’s only goal.
The goal was Celia’s first NWSL and Reign FC goal. Opening your goal account against your rivals in their house — can’t think of a better way to do it.
Much like when Bethany Balcer claimed her first NWSL/Reign FC goal in the home opener against Orlando Pride, Celia flew straight over to the bench to give Andonovski a giant hug, before her teammates joined her.
And very much the bread & butter of a Vlatko Andonovski-coached side, solid defense was able to hold the lead. Even as Portland would use all of their substitutes and bring on players who can create danger like Simone Charley, Reign FC was able to keep the lead and leave Providence Park with the full three points.
Portland’s most dangerous chance to claim an equalizer came in the 86th minute when forward Midge Purce tried on a volley, but she put too much on it and went high over the crossbar.
The win gives Reign FC 20 points through eleven matches and the team is temporarily enjoying the view from the top of the table. That’s right, for a squad that has FIVE players on the Season Ending Injury list, three players still at the World Cup, and seemingly a timeshare on the out/questionable side of the injury report, Reign FC are unbeaten in eight matches with tonight being their third straight win. One can say they have exceeded any projected points output during this four-match stretch on the road, given the aforementioned missing players.
Yet as Andonovski had said during the home stretch before these string of matches on the road, they’re not using any of the injuries as excuses. If anything, it’s galvanized the entire squad, whether they’ve been here since training camp or signed as recent as last month. Andonovski has every Reign FC player believing they can contribute on the field.
And it’s hard to argue given their run of form as we near the halfway point of the season.
Reign FC close out the four-match road trip next Saturday with a meeting with the defending champions. Reign FC take on North Carolina Courage on Saturday, July 13 in Cary, North Carolina. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 PM PST.