It’s time for that familiar song: the NWSL remix of the Cascadia derby. OL Reign’s second match of the regular season saw them hit the road down I-5 to take on rival Portland Thorns FC. There were goals, fouls, questionable calls & non-calls, and blood — just another day in Cascadia.
If you were late to tuning into the match, you missed out on the three goals scored within the first 15 minutes. Portland’s Christine Sinclair opened the scoring, but OL Reign responded almost immediately with goals from Megan Rapinoe and Shirley Cruz to take the first round of the regular season series with a two-goals-to-one victory in Portland.
WHAT WORKED: CONCEDE EARLY? NO PROBLEM, HERE’S TWO REIGN GOALS
If you could do a CTRL+Z to undo something in real life, probably Karen Bardsley wouldn’t have punched out the ball in an attempt to clear it, only to have it fall to the feet of the greatest international goal scorer of all time, Christine Sinclair, to chip in the ball and open the scoring five minutes in.
However, what was great is how quickly OL Reign responded. After Jess Fishlock got fouled by Portland’s Crystal Dunn to win a free kick, Megan Rapinoe did Megan Rapinoe Things, this time that sweet & spicy, bend & dip flavor in the 10th minute.
And then five minutes later, Shirley Cruz logged on and claimed her first goal as an OL Reign player.
WHAT WORKED: MISSING IN ACTION - PORTLAND’S TRIO
Sinclair did get Portland’s lone goal, but in the grand picture of the entire match, OL Reign did a good job in limiting how much influence Portland’s heavy hitters had on the match. Lindsey Horan, Crystal Dunn, and Sinclair are some of the league’s best players and while completely neutralizing any of them in a match — let alone all three of them — is very hard, they did not make that emphatic impact on the game. Portland may lament the chances they squandered to get an equalizing goal and perhaps regain the lead, which is also a credit to Reign’s defense and Bardsley coming up big on some saves. Overall, much like how they limited the influence North Carolina’s Debinha had last weekend, it was another solid team effort to make Portland’s main impact players less impactful, and it worked.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: MISSED CHANCES TO PUT THE GAME AWAY
While OL Reign should be rightfully commended for keeping their defense together and not giving up the lead to either an equalizer or go-ahead Portland goal, their work to put the game to rest surely will be something to work on as the season progresses. There was a moment right as the match was entering stoppage time after 90 minutes of regulation where Fishlock had a breakaway with the ball and could have easily gone straight for goal, however she looked to have eased off the gas pedal a bit perhaps knowing a teammate was coming up to her right. It’s understandable to have that option especially if you can lure the goalkeeper out and boom perhaps a walk-in goal for your teammate. However no one would have begrudged Fishlock if she opted to go for the glory herself if it would have translated into a third goal and perhaps the final, dragon-sized seal on the victory.
“I HAD TO TALK MY SHIT”
When Rapinoe scored the equalizing free kick goal, it happened in front of Portland’s supporters, the Rose City Riveters. She and the rest of the team celebrated in front of them and Rapinoe said in the post-match press conference, “The Thorns fans have one big problem though — is that they love me. So it’s really difficult for them to cheer against me. So when I scored, I had to go right over and really talk my shit. I was trying to talk shit to them and they just didn’t know what to do and then finally someone gave me like a big double fuck you middle fingers up and I was like that’s what I’m talking about like that’s the kind of rivalry we want.”
The win gives OL Reign four points, and next up for them is a match in the comforts of home as they host the Washington Spirit on Memorial Day weekend. As previously reported, US international Rose Lavelle is expected to join the team this week and could be available for selection against her former team.
OL Reign host Washington Spirit on Sunday, May 30, with a 4 PM PT kickoff and the match will be broadcast on Paramount+.