After Saturday’s loss at North Carolina Courage, OL Reign responded exactly how they wanted to with a dominant 2-0 over the Chicago Red Stars on Tuesday night in Cheney Stadium. Both teams played this past Saturday, but the quick turnaround did not phase Farid Benstiti’s side, as around 2,500 fans in Cheney Stadium were dazzled by glimpses of what this team loaded with prolific international stars and rising players can do.
WHAT WORKED: THE REIGN ACTUALLY SCORED FIRST!
We emphasized in our match preview the importance of starting the game strong and, perhaps this time, be the ones to open the scoring first. Well, Shirley Cruz must have heard our and your wishes and spoke it into existence with a goal in the first minute, courtesy of a second-chance volley.
.@OLReign cruisin' early #RGNvCHI | https://t.co/nsck1gS0i8 | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/r1JmtzKrED— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) June 23, 2021
WHAT WORKED: SOFIA HUERTA TO BETHANY BALCER
OL Reign dominated the first half. Even with taking into the bigger context of Chicago’s setup not having that much experience playing together, resulting in Jess Fishlock and Dzsenifer Marozsán feasting in the midfield, their conducting the first half resulted in Bethany Balcer and Sofia Huerta getting more touches along the wings. On the whole picture of the evening, Huerta responded well, much like the entire team after the loss at North Carolina.
Maybe there was some extra motivation in going up against a former team, but Huerta’s presence was known for the whole 90 minutes. She drew fouls and was relentless against Chicago’s fullbacks to where, in stoppage time, this nutmeg on Bianca St. Georges and the subsequent foul would result in a second yellow and sending off for St. Georges.
oop pic.twitter.com/PLOumaMxsE— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 23, 2021
And of course, setting up Balcer with this great cross.
How about that for a header #RGNvCHI | https://t.co/nsck1gS0i8 | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/FWPYB6PlUv— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) June 23, 2021
WHAT WORKED: THE MIDFIELD
It might have been a surprise to fans to see the starting eleven with Marozsán as a false nine/another center-attacking mid to go with Fishlock, but it worked. The respect, perhaps fear, of what Marozsán can do with the ball that high up on the field sure resulted in the midfield finally working as a unit — and a very effective one at that.
What cannot be overlooked in the midfield working today was Quinn also getting the start and seemingly past the spells of injuries that limited their minutes early in the season. Quinn said in their post-match presser that having a balance in the midfield trio alongside Fishlock and Cruz was something they’d been focused on. Quinn was able to be the holding midfielder and have enough presence to not stress out the backline. It was clear they corrected what hurt them last Saturday at North Carolina, as OL Reign’s midfield made sure they had as much influence as they could on the game.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: JUST TWO GOALS?
In the grand picture of what looked like a complete team performance and just as important, a win they needed, this is probably going to sound nitpicky. OL Reign could have and perhaps should have put the scoreline to something even more lopsided if they finished the chances they had in the second half. Eugénie Le Sommer made her highly anticipated OL Reign/NWSL debut, appearing in the 65th minute, and she almost made her impact literally a minute later. Le Sommer had two other chances to find the back of the net. Obviously, a goal in your debut would have been great, but given she just arrived last week, just the bits fans saw in person drew awe as to what’s made her one of the most prolific scorers in the game.
If tonight’s performance was a step in the right direction, then they will in due time claim that goal that puts a game to bed. They know they have to capitalize on those opportunities, especially when all other facets of the game are working in their favor. OL Reign did dominate the first half and pretty much the whole game, but sitting on a two-goal lead is, well, you know the saying. Benstiti said in his post-match press conference that they need to continue scoring goals in the second half and leave no room for doubt.
“We were keen to get back out and redeem ourselves”
That’s how Quinn started their overall statement on the win, coming off the loss at North Carolina. They said that past games this season, opposing teams had been getting too many early chances on OL Reign, which typically resulted in them having to chase the game because of conceding first. Shirley Cruz scoring literally a minute into the match of course is a great way to start the match, but the whole team still had to work and not lose focus for the remaining 89 minutes and they did just that.
Every player on this squad will and has said that the season is long, there are more games to play, and they still have a lot of work to do. However, on a warm Tuesday night in Tacoma, they showed more than flashes of what this team can do, perhaps taking a big step in the right direction.
It’s another quick turnaround for OL Reign as their next match is on Saturday. Thankfully they won’t have to do any traveling as they’ll once again be in the comfy confines of Cheney Stadium — but the weather forecast will be a very hot one. OL Reign will host Gotham FC on Saturday, June 26, looking to avenge their loss at Red Bull Arena against them earlier this month. As of publication, kickoff is scheduled for 1 PM PT and will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the US and Twitch internationally.