TACOMA, Wash. — This match was supposed to be Reign FC’s second match in a week. They were scheduled to play on Wednesday against Utah Royals FC in without a doubt the club’s biggest match of the season to date because of the direct impact on contending for a playoff spot.
However, Mother Nature had other ideas as heavy rainfall over the course of that Wednesday had made the field at Cheney Stadium unplayable and the match was postponed to another date.
With an unexpected day off and perhaps a silver lining, an extra day of rest and preparation, Vlatko Andonovski’s squad shifted their focus to tonight as they hosted Sky Blue FC.
Unfortunately a promising start was beset by inability to finish their chances and one lapse on the defensive side resulted in Sky Blue FC defeating Reign FC, 1-0.
The squad of 18 for Reign FC got a boost as forward Megan Rapinoe made her first start on the season. Goalkeeper Lydia Williams was in as the backup goalkeeper, defender Steph Cox, and midfielder Rumi Utsugi were also available substitutes. Neither were used in the match, but the significance of these three players being available for the remaining matches on the season is not lost on anyone.
It started well for Reign FC. Right from kickoff, Reign FC were able to create chances along the flanks, testing Sky Blue FC’s defenders on either side. The crosses by Rapinoe, Steph Catley, Theresa Nielsen, and Darian Jenkins were there. The quality on the final touch was not. Bev Yanez and Jenkins got shots from just outside and inside the 18-yard box in the 3rd and 6th minutes respectively, both were too high.
Forward Bethany Balcer had limitless energy and what Rapinoe described post-match as “incredible instincts,” to make the most of her chances down the middle, but the quality on the final touch was not there.
Sense the theme going on in this match recap?
Even when Sky Blue FC made the adjustments in the second half as head coach Freya Coombs said was, “Recognizing their movement and be better organized defensively,” Reign FC still got the crosses in, but not the finishes. You may have heard this song before where a team dominates the stat sheet, except the most important one — goals scored. That was Reign FC on Saturday night.
The match’s lone goal and eventual winner from Sky Blue FC came in the 77th minute when former Reign FC forward Nahomi Kawasumi sent in a textbook through ball past Reign FC’s defense and midfielder Carli Lloyd was there to get it past goalkeeper Casey Murphy.
Reign FC would try to get an equalizer to at least salvage a crucial point in the match, but they just could not catch a break.
“We were just missing the technicality on it. I think twice we were right in front the goal. If we don’t score those, then we’re not going to win the game. I don’t care who we play, when, where, how, if we miss the open nets, we cannot win,” said a frustrated Andonovski after the match.
And how could the team feel anything but frustrated. While none of them were scoreboard watching, coming into the match they certainly had to have liked their chances in getting the full three points and leapfrog over Utah Royals FC in the standings. Utah did fall to defending champions, North Carolina Courage, who secured their third-consecutive NWSL Shield for best regular season record. Chicago Red Stars took care of their business against Washington Spirit and secured a spot in post-season play. Portland Thorns strengthened their grip on being the third team in. A win tonight would have put Reign FC in the fourth and final playoff spot with three matches to go.
Reign FC are going to have to move on and not dwell on the missed opportunities tonight. Just as it was the case this past Wednesday, the rescheduled match against Utah is a must-win if they want to keep their chances alive for post-season play. There really is no room for error for Andonovski’s side. If they want to be in the NWSL playoffs, they must win out and it starts on Wednesday.
And that match with Utah takes place this coming Wednesday. Fans who had tickets for the original match scheduled on the Sept. 18 will still be able to use them for the rescheduled match. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM.