OL Reign continues its NWSL Challenge Cup play with a match against the Houston Dash. The game kicks off on Saturday, July 4 at 7 PM PT and will air on CBS All Access (U.S./Canada) and Twitch for international viewers.
The game will also air on CBS Sports Network on Sunday morning at 7 AM PT.
Both teams enter their second game with one point, as the Dash finished with a 3-3 draw against the Utah Royals in a thrilling, end-to-end match. The Reign also walked away from their opening game with a draw, but the 0-0 scoreline was much different.
OL Reign will once again be without the grit of Jess Fishlock in the midfield and the creativity of Sofia Huerta. Both are nursing mild injuries and should still be available later in tournament — but may not feature in the next few games.
Two former Reign players, Shea Groom and Megan Oyster, made an instant impact for their new club. Oyster brought some defensive stability to the Dash’s backline while Groom found the back of the net to score Houston’s third goal.
On the offensive end, the Dash are led by Rachel Daly, who is questionable for the match with a right thigh injury she picked up at the end of the game against Utah. When she is locked into the game and feeling it, she’s virtually unstoppable. Daly scored two goals in Houston’s opening game — one in transition and another by getting on the end of a corner kick. She can shoot from distance, sneak into the box, and win balls in the air. She’s fun as heck to watch and frustrating to defend.
Fortunately, the Reign are coming off a strong defensive performance. But to beat the Dash, they’ll need to be a lot more creative and disciplined on the offensive end. Expect some significant rotation as the team strives to give more players meaningful minutes to work their way into this tournament.
What to Watch
Here are four things we want to see in Saturday’s match:
- Smarter possession in the attacking half: While the Reign finished their opening match with 52% of possession, they lacked patience in the build-up in their opponent’s half. A telling stat that highlights this: Shirley Cruz, who was the center attacking midfielder, made just 29 of the team’s 472 passes. The Reign have to both be more patient when advancing the ball and get their attacking midfielders more involved.
- And smart crosses, please: When the team ran out of ideas against Sky Blue, it felt like they began to resort to low-percentage crosses that rarely resulted in a dangerous chance. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be crossing the ball, however. The Dash don’t have as much depth on the backline and are certainly vulnerable defending balls into the box — but the Reign have to choose the right ball and the right time to be effective.
- Be ready for a transitional game: Houston thrives on high-energy, transitional games. Against Utah, the Dash managed 11 shots on just 296 passes (remember, the Reign had 472!). Two of their three goals were the result of long balls over the top of Utah’s defense. Regardless of whether Daly plays or not, the OL Reign backline is going to have to be well organized and in sync to ensure they don’t let anyone slip behind.
- Finish strong: The Dash managed to let a 3-1 lead slip away from them in their opener, while the Reign had some strong energy for the final 15 minutes of their match against Sky Blue. Subs could make a big difference this game. Whether the club is ahead, even, or trailing, tactical adjustments and subs during the final 20 minutes could change this game. Can the Reign close out the match strongly? We’ll find out.
OUT: Jess Fishlock (Right Lower Leg), Sofia Huerta (Right Hamstring), Kelcie Hedge (Right Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Nichelle Prince (Personal), Rachel Daly (Right Thigh)
Some solid rotation for the Reign.
12’ - Well, darn. Casey Murphy’s pass out of the back is easily intercepted, and some good passing leaves Kristie Mewis wide open. She doesn’t miss. 1-0 Houston.
54’ - Shea Groom puts the Dash up 2-0.
And that’s the match. Reign fall apart after Houston’s first goal and lose 2-0 to the Dash.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Saturday, July 4, 7 PM PT
Location: Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah
This is your OL Reign gamethread. Head to @rovalks on Twitter for real-time updates, or join the conversation in the comments below.