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OL Reign remain winless after losing to Portland Thorns, 1-2

Defender Amber Brooks done hard by two soft penalty calls.

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

OL Reign resumed their NWSL Fall Series tonight with a home match against their Cascadia rivals, the Portland Thorns FC. Revenge was on the mind for Farid Benstiti’s squad after being on the business end of a Portland Thorns FC 4-goal rout two weeks ago down in Providence Park. While they looked a lot stronger and, most importantly, refreshed after having full and proper rest, they couldn’t overcome two soft penalty calls and remain winless in the NWSL Fall Series.

Christine Sinclair converted both penalties for Portland, while Amber Brooks claimed OL Reign’s goal. For Brooks, it was a small moment of redemption as she had a rough night with the referee, deeming her to be responsible for both soft penalty calls.

WHAT WORKED: Madison Hammond starts

Your new favorite OL Reign player, Madison Hammond, got her first start and went 83 minutes at left back. Some expected moments for a rookie to feel the pressure, but overall it was quite the solid shift from her. “I never felt Hammond was nervous,” said Benstiti in his post-match press conference, adding that he could see her being a regular starter.

WHAT WORKED: Justice for Amber Brooks. At least one time.

Defender Amber Brooks got her first goal on the year after redirecting Shirley Cruz’s long distance shot in the 46th minute. It was a good way to avenge the hard justice done to her in the first half that resulted in Portland being awarded and converting a penalty.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK: A field-level camera angle to start the game

Not related to the match performance, but right from kickoff, viewers were surprised to find a field-level camera angle that felt like a throwback to our youth league days and our parents filming from the sidelines. Through the first 15 minutes, the tweets using the match hashtag were understandably not happy. We’re not sure whether it was technical difficulties, or a lack of a full production crew allowed to be on-site in accordance to crowd limits from the state because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but obviously it was far from ideal. As much as we see other sports leagues try to carry on and broadcast their games, it is good to keep in mind that the NWSL as a whole has a ways to go before they can command a small army of broadcast equipment, especially for makeshift games just so the players can have a game to play in.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK: Amber Brooks vs. the referee

In the closing minutes of the first half, defender Amber Brooks was ruled to have fouled Portland’s Simone Charley in the box and awarded Portland a penalty. Christine Sinclair converted to open the scoring.

And then in the 72nd minute, Brooks gets another soft foul called on her that results in another penalty awarded to Portland, that Sinclair converts on. The second instance resulted in Benstiti being shown a yellow card, obviously sticking up for Brooks and rightfully questioning the decisions of referee, Laura Rodriguez.

“I don’t know about the penalty. I don’t like to speak about this... I want to see the video and have an objective opinion on this.”

Obviously the major talking point in the match was the two penalties that referee Laura Rodriguez awarded to Portland. OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti was asked about them in his post-match press conference and diplomatically answered as such.

“I think this last game is going to be more of a complete performance for us.”

In her post-match press conference, midfielder Dani Weatherholt talked about the understandable challenges of having so very few games in 2020 between the NWSL Challenge Cup and with one more match in the NWSL Fall Series. She went on to say though that the progress the team has done throughout training with each other, so many new faces, and new system, that their final match next Saturday could be more indicative of the entire package coming together.

OL Reign have one more chance to get their first win in the NWSL Fall Series and end this most unusual “2020 season” on a high as they host Utah Royals FC next Saturday, October 17. The match will be broadcast on streaming platform on CBS All Access with a start time of 5 PM PT/8 PM ET.

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