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Five things we want to see when OL Reign host Portland

Let’s score some goals this weekend.

OL Reign v Portland Thorns FC Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a tough 4-1 loss to their rivals just 10 days ago, OL Reign are looking for some redemption against the Portland Thorns this weekend. They’ll host their I-5 rivals at Cheney Stadium in a match that kicks off Saturday at 5 PM PT.

The game will stream exclusively on Twitch.

Despite the scoreline, the first 40 minutes of the last match were fairly even, with the Reign producing the best chance on a Bethany Balcer header minutes into the match. But after playing their first game in months just four days prior, OL Reign got tired and allowed Portland — and in particular Christine Sinclair — to boss them around for the rest of the game.

It was the Thorns who would then feel the same impact of a quick-turnaround game. While the Reign have been rested since their Cascadia clash, Portland had to play Utah on the road three days later. That match ended in a 1-1 draw, with the Royals getting more shots and more shots on goal over 90 minutes.

Can OL Reign do the same and earn a better result this weekend? Here are five things to watch out for in the match.

Early Dominance

We said it when previewing the first match against Portland, and the same thing remains true. The Reign have to create and finish their chances early. Would the game have ended differently if Balcer’s 5th-minute shot went in instead of getting saved? Quite possibly. With plenty of rest and this game at home, an early goal — and setting the tone with a dominant first half — could make all the difference.

Control with Possession

OL Reign only had 40.5% possession against Portland in their last match. Reign head coach Farid Benstiti might not be working with his full roster of players, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t play the kind of game he wants: offensive-minded, possession-driven soccer. If the team wants to keep the ball away from players like Horan, they need to connect passes and control the game through possession.

Disrupt the Midfield

I also focused on the midfield before last game at the exclusion of one player: Christine Sinclair. Yes, the all-time leader in international goals. Won’t happen again! Still, the reason Sinclair earned a hattrick against the club is because the Reign didn’t do enough to close down the passing lanes in the midfield. Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Raquel Rodriguez and Angela Salem — or whoever else starts in the midfield — can’t have much time on the ball. They need to be pressured. And please don’t leave Sinclair so unmarked this time around.

Multiple Goals

OL Reign has shown more offensive punch these last two games. Scoring more than one goal against the Thorns, who still have what is essentially a full-strength squad, would be a good sign for the Reign’s potential heading into 2021.

Play for Community

While first place is out of the question for the NWSL Fall Series, OL Reign could possibly end up in the top 3 with wins over the next two games. Doing that would put the club in a position to win money for the Black Future Co-op Fund. Each of the NWSL’s nine clubs are playing for a small businesses or program in their community. The top 3 teams earn $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, for their organization of choice. The Black Future Co-op Fund was launched this summer to address the systemic racism and wealth inequality that has disproportionately affected the Black community for generations.

How to Watch

The match kicks off at 5 PM PT on Oct. 10 and will stream on Twitch.

Injury Report

OL Reign

OUT: Kelcie Hedge (SEI – right knee), Julia Ashley (back), Lauren Barnes (loan), Michelle Betos (knee), Celia Jiménez Delgado (loan), Jess Fishlock (loan), Machaela George (loan), Darian Jenkins (loan), Yuka Momiki (loan), Quinn (loan), Megan Rapinoe (voluntary opt-out)

Portland Thorns

OUT: Adrianna Franch (knee), Bella Bixby (knee), Gabby Seiler (right thigh), Celeste Boureille (loan), Meaghan Nally (loan)

OL Reign Fall Series Roster

Goalkeepers: Michelle Betos, Casey Murphy, Carly Nelson

Defenders: Julia Ashley, Amber Brooks, Steph Cox, Madison Hammond, Kim Hazlett, Sam Hiatt, Taylor Smith

Midfielders: Morgan Andrews, Shirley Cruz (INT), Allie Long (FED), Kristen McNabb, Dani Weatherholt, Rosie White (INT)

Forwards: Bethany Balcer, Sofia Huerta, Miranda Nild, Leah Pruitt, Jasmyne Spencer