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Match Preview: OL Reign v. Gotham FC

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The Reign are looking to bounce back on the road.

2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Day 2 Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

After a frustrating loss to the Washington Spirit, OL Reign are looking for a rebound on the road. They face NJ/NY Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, June 5, at 4 PM PT. The game will stream on Paramount+ for fans in North America and Twitch for international viewers.

Gotham and the Reign have had a similar start to the season. Both are 1-1-1 and have been tough to break down defensively while also struggling to score goals. Gotham has given up just one goal in three matches and scored just once. OL Reign have given up two goals and scored twice.

In addition to a few injuries, OL Reign will be without Nicole Momiki and Quinn, who got called up early to their national teams ahead of the FIFA international break.

Both teams are coming off 1-0 losses. Who will have the upper hand on Saturday? Here are three things we’ll be watching in the match.

How each team uses the width and space

The field at Red Bull Arena is 120 x 75 yards, while Cheney Stadium is 110 x 70. That means the Reign and Gotham will both have a lot more space to work in. This can either be a benefit or a hurdle for the Reign. It means that the Reign have a lot more room to create space on the offensive end, which should only be a good thing for newcomer Rose Lavelle, who shined in her OL Reign debut considering she only had a few training sessions with the squad.

On the defensive end, the Reign will need to work to keep things compact. Gotham likes to use their outside backs in possession — in particular, Caprice Dydasco, who averages 61 passes per match. Gotham doesn’t rely on crosses too much, instead using their outside backs to move the ball up the pitch. That will make it hard for the Reign to stay compact defensively, but the Tacoma club can work to win the ball up the field constantly and try to push Gotham into spaces where they have cover.

“When the pitch is that big, you just have to really be smart,” OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock said in a pre-match press conference. “You have to be smart with your defending, with your attacking, what spaces you want to use, and how you want to use those spaces. Gotham obviously have other advantages. They play there, they know what it’s like. We have to travel. But we’re ready.”

OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti was optimistic about the field and the team’s chances. “I really think that it could be an advantage. I’m pretty sure that this game will not finish without goals.”

Efficiency in the final third

Speaking of goals, both teams haven’t done so well in that category. Gotham has registered just 20 shots over three games, with just four of those on target. The Reign have 30 shots and 13 on target, but just two goals to show for it.

Both teams will be hungry for goals. Both teams like to possess the ball. Both teams need to show they can be more dangerous in the final third. OL Reign have shown promising signs in each of their first three matches and had plenty of almost-chances against the Spirit last weekend — many of them through Lavelle in the midfield. Can they put it all together this weekend?

Fishlock touched on the team’s struggles against Washington. “We were disappointed on the weekend that we weren’t able to attack with authority and assertiveness. We got into some good spaces and we really had the ball in Washington’s half and final third, and we just didn’t have quality, basically, at the end of the day. We have a team that has a lot of quality, so we just really didn’t figure that out. We know that we have to be a lot better with that on the weekend.”

Utilizing the defense in attack

Defensively, the backline has been solid. They’ve only allowed two goals in three matches — and against some tough attacking opponents. At the same time, the team’s outside backs haven’t been able to get consistently involved in the attack. Lauren Barnes, for now, seems to be settling into a role at left back instead of her more comfortable centerback role. She’s been able to get up the line at times, but not consistently.

While Celia showed a lot of potential in the Challenge Cup, she’s out injured for a few more weeks. That’s pushed Madison Hammond into the right back spot. Like Barnes, she’s great in possession and has been involved in the attack on occasion.

With a field as big as Red Bull Arena, it would be nice to see the Reign using that width — and the outside backs will play a big part in that. With new attacking options joining the club in a few weeks, it’s important to solidify this part of the attack now.

Players to Watch

  • Allie Long: The midfielder who held it down for the Reign the last few seasons has been a huge addition to Gotham’s squad. She’ll be asked to control the tempo of the game — and as Reign fans know, she’s a smart player who is hard to push off the ball.
  • Midge Purce: The forward-slash-right-back has been Gotham’s most dangerous attacker this year. She’s also been asked to play right back at times for the club, but is most dangerous up top. Purce is great on the dribble and has really honed her finishing skills.
  • Caprice Dydasco: The outside back was just named to the May NWSL Team of the Month for her defensive contributions (she won 60% of her tackles) and her involvement in Gotham’s attack (she averages 61 passes with an 83% pass rating).

Injury Report / International Absences

OL Reign

OUT: Ally Watt (Right Knee), Celia (Right Thigh), Karen Bardsley (Left Thigh), Machaela George (Left Ankle), INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Quinn (CAN), Nicole Momiki (JPN)

Gotham FC

OUT: Imani Dorsey (left hip); QUESTIONABLE: Estelle Johnson (right hamstring), McCall Zerboni (back); INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Kailen Sheridan (CAN), Evelyne Viens (CAN)

How to Watch

The match will kick off at 4 PM PT on Saturday, June 5. Fans in the U.S. and Canada can view the game on Paramount+, while international viewers can watch on Twitch.