OL Reign kept their winning ways and strengthened their hold on second place in the standings with a dominant 3-0 victory over Orlando Pride on Sunday. OL Reign’s onslaught began immediately as forward Bethany Balcer maintained her lead in the NWSL Golden Boot race, claiming the first goal. Eugénie Le Sommer added two more in the first half as part of a team performance that declared, in case anyone forgot coming out of the FIFA international break, OL Reign are very much a team that can hurt you.
WHAT WORKED: YO DAWG, HEARD YOU LIKE GOALS
And OL Reign sure got the goal-fest going early. Their first goal came in the third minute with that new classic OL Reign song of a Sofia Huerta cross into the box meeting Balcer’s head.
Le Sommer joined the score sheet in the 28th minute after teammate Dzsenifer Marozsán was gifted the ball from Orlando and struck from distance, about a good 30-yards away.
Le Sommer would cap off the dominant first half with a brace with this beautiful pass sequence of Kristen McNabb to Jess Fishlock to Marozsán, and then Le Sommer for the finish. Sit back and think of all the superlatives you can with this one.
WHAT WORKED: OL REIGN WERE NOT HERE TO PLAY
At this point in the season, there is still plenty to play for. While OL Reign entered the day in a comfortable position to qualify for the playoffs, no team in the league is guaranteed it. It was important for OL Reign to come right out of the gate strong and assertive that this was their game and they weren’t going to lose it. With Huerta and Balcer connecting once again to score in the third minute, the tone was set right from the rip and Orlando had no answer. While Orlando had a bit more energy in the second half, their first true shot on target came in the 70th minute and even that wasn’t any danger for OL Reign goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
Even with the substitutions that they planned, OL Reign had a few chances to add a fourth, even fifth goal on the night. The amount of talent this squad has on paper has been showing itself through late August and September, and even with the FIFA break, they appear to not be missing a beat. While the majority of the teams in the NWSL all have a chance to qualify for the playoffs, OL Reign look to be on another level at the time they need to be — serving notice to everyone that the level of talent here is something other teams don’t have.
“We’ve got to show our quality and I think in the first half, we definitely did that.”
In her post-match press conference, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey talked about needing to establish control right away. With Orlando having three attackers in Jodie Taylor, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux in their starting eleven, Harvey knew they were going to be aggressive. Scoring first and so early in the match would go on to be the first punch in a first-half dominance that Orlando had no answer for.
With such a dominant win putting the team closer to securing a spot in the playoffs, Harvey talked about how the team is far from resting on any laurels up to this point.
“We take every game as it comes, and I think that, obviously the fact that we’ve put ourselves in this current position is testament to the work that the players and staff have been doing the last few months. But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, and we know that. To even contemplate the (NWSL) Shield would be a ridiculous task honestly with what you know the games Portland have. But do I think that we’ve got a really good shot of a home playoff game? Yeah, so are we really talking about the shield, not really and that’s not our ultimate aim. Our ultimate aim is to get in the playoffs once that’s secured, we have another target, which is a home playoff game.
And we want to make sure that we secure those things and don’t get ahead of ourselves, because we said it at halftime in the game today we’ve been in this league long enough, you know, myself and Sam to know that this league is relentless so you know nothing’s going to come easy. So we can’t think for one minute that it’s over we’ve got to take these next four games and continue to improve.”
The win keeps OL Reign at second place in the standings, widening their lead over third-place North Carolina Courage, and just now three points behind first-place team Portland Thorns FC. And guess who is next up for OL Reign, yep Portland. OL Reign were the victorious side in the first two meetings, so they already have the head-to-head advantage, and will be looking to make it a regular-season series sweep.
The game is scheduled for Saturday, October 2 with a 7 PM PT broadcast on Paramount+ for US viewers, while international viewers can watch it on Twitch.