This is it, a trip to the NWSL Championship in Washington, D.C., on the line. Or the season is over.
OL Reign hosted Kansas City Current in front of, once again, a brand new standalone attendance record of 21,491 in what unfortunately was a disappointing end to OL Reign’s season.
Kansas City scored first and very early with a 4th-minute goal by Alex Loera. OL Reign were aggressive throughout the first half to equalize and came very close a couple of chances. Jordyn Huitema had a point-blank header that Kansas City’s Adrianna Franch made an incredible reflex save on. Jess Fishlock fired a long-distance shot that was only stopped by the crossbar.
The second half saw more of the same from OL Reign, chasing the one-goal lead. However, all of the runs they made, Kansas City absorbed, and a counter attack in the 63rd minute gave Kansas City a two-goal lead. Kristen Hamilton scored that goal. It would prove to be the dagger, as despite all of the firepower that OL Reign had, they were unable to find the back of the net — and for the second straight year, were eliminated in the NWSL Semifinal round, this time with a two-goal defeat.
WHAT WORKED: 21,491
For the fourth time this season, OL Reign set a new standalone attendance record. When they announced the move to Lumen Field back in December 2021, there were equal parts excitement and anxiety as to how would the stands look given Lumen Field’s cavernous feeling. People showed up, and slowly but surely, more people continued to show up. Even with the nuances of women’s sports in terms of awareness, for a team to set and break their attendance records multiple times in a season is a proud achievement.
Of the 21,491 that were in attendance, the ask is that they keep showing up for next season and beyond. This team, the players, the coaching staff, and the people in the front office have all busted ass to make their case that Lumen Field is their home as much as it’s been for the Seahawks and Sounders.
The result of this match notwithstanding, this must be the turning point.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THAT GOAL CONCEDED
Chaos soccer is one thing. Playoff chaos soccer is another beast, and Kansas City Current silenced the Lumen Field crowd in the 4th minute. Alex Loera made the most out of a second chance ball after OL Reign’s attempt to clear it ran into a traffic jam that the Downtown Seattle corridor of I-5 would be proud of. The normally sure-handed Phallon Tullis-Joyce couldn’t secure the ball and well...
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THAT KANSAS CITY COUNTER IN THE 63RD
For a team that allowed the least amount of goals over the course of the regular season and for the most part very solid, the second goal conceded was just bad. No other way to say it. It would end up being the dagger to OL Reign’s season and just, yeah friends, it sucks.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: UNABLE TO BEAT ADRIANNA FRANCH
There’s a reason Adrianna Franch is a finalist for NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year. She is, and has been, that good. Despite all of the chances OL Reign had and the shots they put in, none of them got past her. Franch absolutely anchored a Kansas City defensive unit that also made some incredible clearances inside the box and right on the goal line to keep OL Reign off the scoreboard.
Nothing but absolute respect to Kansas City’s defense, led by Adrianna Franch.
“I said I was really proud of them.”
After the full-time whistle, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey gathered the team in a huddle on the field. Asked what she said to the team in that huddle, Harvey said, “Over the season, did we probably deserve to be in the championship? Yes. On tonight’s game, did we deserve to be in the championship? No. We lacked quality when we needed and that was the game, really. That was my message at the end of the game, we are a very honest group with each other, and at the end, I was very honest with them to say that I truly believed that over the course of the season, did we deserve to get close to that championship, yes, but on tonight’s performance, we didn’t show quality when we needed it.”
Because of the bye week for a top-two finish and the FIFA international break, OL Reign hadn’t played a game in three weeks. Much like she said in the pre-match press conference, Harvey said tonight’s lackluster performance was not because of too much rest.
“I said this before, I don’t think that the bye was a disadvantage to us at all. I don’t think that contributed to the game. I’m not going to use that as an excuse. No chance. I think they would have played the same if they scored when they did, or if they did just score the first goal when they scored the second one. I don’t think it would have changed.”
Forward Megan Rapinoe said that despite the early goal conceded, there wasn’t a sense of panic among the team — and that they just lacked that quality needed on the final ball.
“I wasn’t really too stressed. I don’t feel like we were really too stressed about it. We felt like we had a lot of chances the first half. I think just our quality on the ball in both boxes just wasn’t there,” said Rapinoe.
And lack of quality on the final ball withstanding, OL Reign kept on trying to get that first goal. There were endless corner kicks for them and even with another disappointing exit in the semifinal round, Harvey was proud that her squad did not give up.
“We never give up. I think that we’ve shown that all season, that we don’t give up. And that’s probably the most the biggest thing I’m proud of. I think the journey has been a really exciting one this year. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t quite get to the promised land,” said Harvey.
And that’s it, OL Reign’s 2022 season is over.
Of course, no one wanted the ride to end here, but that’s sports. Someone’s gotta win, someone’s gotta lose. One team was better than the other for 90 minutes.
That said, the NWSL Championship is set and it will be between the Portland Thorns and Kansas City Current. The two will meet at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, October 29. The match will be broadcast on CBS and Paramount+ for those in the US, while international viewers can watch on Twitch.
Even if OL Reign aren’t playing in it, the NWSL Championship will still be must-watch television. With the talent both sides have, it should be one hell of a show.