OL Reign’s day was an eventful one in their history before kickoff even happened. This morning saw the immediate resignation of Farid Benstiti as head coach, and assistant coach Sam Laity operated OL Reign’s sidelines as interim head coach.
The change at the top did not provide an immediate boost in OL Reign’s favor as they fell to the Houston Dash, 0-2. The goals were scored by former Reign forward Jasmyne Spencer and Katie Naughton, while once again OL Reign created good chances but finished none of them.
WHAT WORKED: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In all seriousness, it’s encouraging that the young backline continues to gain experience with each match. It’s growing pains to see them concede goals, but that’s why they’re growing pains. Interim head coach Sam Laity talked about the thinking in getting minutes to players like Madison Hammond, Alana Cook, and Sam Hiatt over proven veterans like Lauren Barnes and Steph Cox. It boils down to now or never. The organization is very high on their upsides and what sort of futures the young defenders have — and yes, at some point the training wheels must come off and you have to see what they can do. Their hunger throughout training sessions is also why they are getting starting minutes over some veterans.
For a club as deep with prolific talent as OL Reign, the competition to get playing time is the highest it’s ever been in the team’s history. Barnes spoke glowingly about the competition from the younger players, which is a sign that they have created the right culture to drive everyone to be better, even if it means Barnes is getting beat out for playing time.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: NOT FINISHING IN THE FINAL THIRD. AGAIN.
Whatever has caused OL Reign to be snakebit in the final third showed up again, as the team could not finish an attack with the ball in the back of the net. As much as it’s been opposing goalkeepers doing what they’re supposed to be doing and all credit to Houston’s Jane Campbell, she made some great saves, including this double-save.
But it’s almost inexplicable how they haven’t been able to find the back of the net. The only thing they can do is just keep creating those chances and shoot and, hopefully, something goes through as forward Sofia Huerta said after the match:
I know that I had a couple opportunities, where I could score tonight and like you said we create opportunities and it’s frustrating, we have to move on, but it’s our job to put the goals away and it hasn’t been happening.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: HOUSTON’S HEADERS, YEP REIGN FELL VICTIM TO THEM
As Susie pointed out in the match preview, Houston is strong in the air. Entering the match, five of their eight goals were scored via header. After tonight, make it six of ten. As much as OL Reign can scout to try and defend it, it’s clear Houston are very good at it, and tonight was another display of that.
“I think we’ll see we’ll see a different team than what we’ve seen in the last two games.”
If everyone is here, OL Reign have a roster in the 30s. That is a lot and it’s only been a few weeks since several key new players have arrived and begun the process of integrating with the squad. Laity said in his post-match press conference that with players arriving and those popping in and out because of international duty, the team has barely had any full training sessions of substance. With their next match not for another nine days, Laity said the team is really looking to this upcoming week to get in more than just walkthrough sessions because of the quick turnaround between matches. And that with full training sessions in, their efforts on the field will start to turn in their favor.
We’ve not really had an opportunity to train. We’ve had four games in the space of 12 days now, two of those on the road. You know Alana Cook, [Dzsenifer] Marozsán, and Sarah [Bouhaddi] joined us two days before North Carolina and went straight into that game; we came back to play Chicago at home and had a very positive performance, didn’t have the opportunity to train apart from game preparation and then played against Gotham. Really we’ve only had probably two training sessions in the last two weeks that have had really any decent substance. It’s been a lot of walk through, a lot of tactical things, and that certainly helps, but we’re really looking forward to now having the opportunity to to get four or five really, really solid training sessions under our belt in preparation for the Kansas game.
It’s such an important game for us, and I think that you know we’re not we’re not an excuse business, however, I will say that having four new players join the squad and not having the opportunity for them to really train with their teammates, that certainly hasn’t helped the situation. Of course they’re all world class players, so they started adding it to the quality into the the identity of the team. What it’s really about now it’s just it’s molding those players to the identity of the club and us molding to them a little bit and, of course, that’s going to take a little bit time.
But you know this league is very, very difficult. Every single game is a big challenge and every single game is a different challenge and we don’t have a lot of time. So we have to really take advantage of these next four or five days of training and really put the team together on the field, and I think when we’ve done that, I think we’ll see a different team to what we’ve seen in the last two games.
It will be nine days before OL Reign return to the field after tonight’s match, but they will be back in the comforts of home. OL Reign’s next match will see them hosting Kansas City on Sunday, July 11. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 PM PT and the game will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the US and internationally on Twitch.
It’s clear that these nine days, with some scheduled days off to decompress followed by some full, comprehensive training sessions, will be the most pivotal days for OL Reign if they want to right the ship and get to where they’re expecting themselves to be — an NWSL Championship contender.