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Match Preview: OL Reign at Racing Louisville

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OL Reign have a chance to keep the winning streak going on the road.

MikeRussellFoto / Sounder at Heart

OL Reign will play their second of three road games on Saturday when they feature in their first-ever match at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville. The game against Racing Louisville kicks off at 4:30 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.

The visiting OL Reign enter the weekend in a tie for second place with 28 points and a 9-7-1 record. Racing Louisville will be pushing hard for three points to try to move up the NWSL ladder, as the club currently sits in 9th with 16 points and a 4-8-4 record.

Louisville is in a space that should feel familiar to OL Reign fans. Earlier this week, the club terminated head coach Christy Holly’s contract “for cause.” Interim head coach Mario Sanchez, who leads the Youth Academy, will step up this weekend.

The Reign are coming off a hard-fought 1-0 win in a mid-week match against the Houston Dash, while Louisville fell 1-0 to Houston last Sunday. They’ll be the more rested squad and will be hosting the Reign at home, where Racing is 3-3-2.

Louisville’s Formation

Louisville’s formation is a little more fluid than a lot of teams and has changed based on the personnel on the field. More recently, they’ve lined up in a 4-1-3-2 formation. Forward Nadia Nadim, who joined the team from PSG, was recently named to the August Team of the Month. She’s typically joined up top by 20-year-old Ebony Salmon, who leads the team with five goals and has proven to be an opportunistic goal-scorer after transferring from the FA Women’s Super League earlier this season.

On the backline, left back Emily Fox is the standout. She’s already received a few U.S. Women's National Team call-ups and is putting in an impressive rookie season. Fox is given a lot of freedom to roam into the attack — and she doesn’t just wander up the left flank. She’s often cutting inside to join the midfield and can be dangerous in front of goal. However, that leaves space out wide on the Reign’s right side that they should be able to exploit in transition. See: Houston’s goal against Racing last week:

The club has also had some rotation in the centerback position, with England veteran Gemma Bonner often lining up next to either Kaleigh Riehl or Nealy Martin. Erin Simon has been starting 15 of Racing’s 16 matches at right back. She’s a smart defender but often has trouble against speedy forwards.

Freja Olofsson holds down the midfield as the lone holding midfielder. She’s often joined by Savannah McCaskill, a strong box-to-box midfielder who has been one of the team’s main creators; CeCe Kizer, who can play up top and in more of the creative midfield role; and Yuki Nagasato, another creator in the midfield. Others have rotated through in those spots.

What to Watch

  • Spread Racing’s midfield: With Olofsson often serving as the lone defensive midfielder, there’s often space between her and the attacking line for teams to exploit. OL Reign will have a larger field to test Louisville this time, instead of the smaller dimensions of Cheney Stadium. If they can create some space for their midfield to have their way, look out.
  • Keep pressuring Louisville’s goal: Racing goalkeeper Michelle Betos (hey, that name sounds familiar!) has been keeping her team in matches. She leads the league in saves, with 83. That’s nearly 20 more than Casey Murphy behind her. The Reign may have to be relentless in their pressure to break through against Betos — but they know from their 2-0 home win against Racing that it’s possible.
  • Always aware on defense: Louisville is at the bottom of the league in corner kicks and shots attempted, averaging just over 6 per game compared to more than 12 for OL Reign. But they only need one chance to change the game. And their 12.6% shots-to-goals conversation rate is better than the Reign’s 10.9%. OL Reign’s defense will need to be turned on for all 90 minutes, preventing players like Nadim and Salmon from winning headers in the box or getting in behind.

Injury Report

OL Reign
OUT: Rosie White (illness), Megan Rapinoe (right thigh)

Racing Louisville
OUT: Addisyn Merrick (left ankle)

QUESTIONABLE: Yuki Nagasato

How to Watch

OL Reign kicks off against Racing Louisville on Saturday, September 4, at 4:30 PM PT. The game will air on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers (search NWSLOfficial).