Reign FC kicked off a three-game homestand with a match against Sky Blue FC on Saturday. While the Reign produced plenty of chances, they couldn’t capitalize on any opportunity — and fell to Sky Blue 1-0 at Cheney Stadium in front of 6,189 fans. With two home matches remaining, the team has already produced its highest cumulative season attendance on record. How about that for a Tacoma welcome?
Here are three winners and losers from the match.
Players getting healthy: Megan Rapinoe went 90 minutes for the first time this season. Rumi Utsugi and Stephanie Cox were available on the bench. Shea Groom was taken off the injury report and could be available to play this week. As the regular season wraps up, the Reign have more options than at almost any point in the season.
Sky Blue’s turnaround season: Sky Blue FC was the subject of many critical stories last year, as ugly details emerged on player and training conditions. There was plenty of talk about the team folding, and numerous players left the club, retired or didn’t report to the club after getting drafted. Thanks to a number of changes this year — including bringing on former Chicago Red Stars general manager Alyse LaHue to run the show — things look to be turning around for Sky Blue. They welcomed more than 9,000 fans to one of two matches at Red Bull Arena and have played spoiler to teams like Reign FC, Utah Royals, and Chicago Red Stars this year.
Reign still control their destiny: With the Utah Royals falling to North Carolina this weekend — giving up 3 goals in the process — the Reign remain tied with the Royals on points. The two teams meet on Wednesday, and a Reign victory would put the Tacoma club in fourth place with two matches remaining. Reign FC will host the Portland Thorns before closing out the season on the road against Orlando. Utah has to travel to face Chicago and concludes with a home match against Houston.
Finishing: It feels like a common refrain at this point, but the Reign continue to create plenty of chances — and then struggle to capitalize on them. The home side had 23 shots — certainly enough for a goal or two — but put only four on target. One or two opportunities right in front of goal were squandered. The official Opta box score gave Megan Rapinoe 10 chances created on the evening, and Bethany Balcer got 10 shots off. Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made some great saves to give her team a shutout, but Reign FC has to find a way to start converting more consistently.
Giving up late goals: We noted in our match preview that Reign FC had given up 7 goals (out of 23 total) in the final 15 minutes of the match. Make that 8 goals in 24 now, as the team let Carli Lloyd slip through in the 77th minute of the match.
Midfield domination: The Reign midfield had plenty of positives, but with Sky Blue playing more of a 4-4-2 formation, it felt like there was always an extra player available for the visiting side in the middle of the field. The Reign midfield was never able to truly dictate the match and the speed of play — and they were caught out of position on occasion when the game got a bit more transitional in the second half. Between the three starters, there was only one chance created from the midfield. The team’s over-reliance on crosses for the evening — they sent 23 into the box — was a big reason for that. If the team wants to get the better of Utah, and then Portland and Orlando to close out the season, the midfield is going to need to control the tempo of the game.