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OL Reign secure the number one seed with 1-1 draw at San Diego Wave FC

Ally Watt scores her first OL Reign goal.

NWSL: OL Reign at San Diego Wave FC Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into tonight’s match, a win or a draw for OL Reign secured the overall number one seed in the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal rounds.

OL Reign’s first trip down to San Diego and the second installment of the Cooler Clásico was one to remember for both good and very bad reasons. Right from kickoff, fans attempting to watch the game on either on Paramount+ or Twitch found themselves facing a technical difficulties screen, as the stream was broken for nearly 20 minutes. As NWSL Twitter was alight with screenshots of “Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By,” Ally Watt claimed her first goal for OL Reign.

A very questionable handball infraction in the Reign box was also called on Watt during stoppage time of the first half, and San Diego’s Alex Morgan converted the resulting penalty to claim the Wave’s goal.

While OL Reign had chances in the second half to claim another goal, the scoreline ultimately remained 1-1, and the draw was enough for OL Reign to win the West Division outright and secure the number one overall seed with 14 points from six matches.


WHAT WORKED: ALLY WATT’S GOAL

Watt became the 10th player to open up their goal-scoring account so far in 2022 for OL Reign. Watt’s goal started with an attempted pass from San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, which after she slipped went straight to forward Bethany Balcer, who was then wiped out by a tackle by Sheridan. Prior to that, Balcer was able to cross the ball to Watt on the right flank, and with an empty net, the rest is history.


WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THE BROADCAST

We know producing live sports is not easy. It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to make a live sports broadcast happen for all of us to enjoy. However, for technical difficulties to last nearly 20 minutes, in which we missed Watt’s first NWSL goal, is just inexcusable.

Technical difficulties can and have hit even the biggest of sports networks that have a small nation’s worth of people and equipment, but for anyone that’s been following the NWSL since its inaugural season, this was just another entry in the chronicle of sub-standard production values that the league continues to struggle with and seemingly has no answer for, rather than entrusting the work to parties with more skill, experience, and resources. The current U.S. broadcast deal with CBS/Paramount+ is still with us for one more year, extended because of the lost season in 2020.

New NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman officially started her administration this week, and among the many things she has to work on, securing a better and robust broadcast deal with access to better resources and personnel to produce actually functional and watchable broadcasts is — pun intended — paramount.


“She’s a threat.”

After the match, Laura Harvey was asked about Watt’s growth and the form she’s had in these Challenge Cup matches. When Harvey returned to the club last August, Watt was still recovering from her torn ACL injury in 2020.

“We’re obviously a very proud of the fact that she’s been able to take these steps in arguably a really short amount of time with the injury that she had. The amount of exposure that she’s been put into because of Megan Rapinoe and Tziarra King being out, I think tonight was a real step in the right direction, finally and just really pleased her that she’s got some reward with a goal.”


So what’s next for OL Reign? Wait. They have the number one overall seed, but two semifinal spots remain up for grabs in tomorrow’s matches, including their opponent in the fourth seed. If the Portland Thorns win or draw against Angel City FC, they will claim the fourth seed as the second-place team with the best overall record, but should they lose then the Washington Spirit will take that spot instead. The other spot up for grabs is the winner of the Central division, with the Kansas City Current and Chicago Red Stars vying for that spot and a chance to face the North Carolina Courage in the other semifinal.

The controversy of OL Reign winning the number one seed is that they will not be able to host the semifinal match at Lumen Field. With the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals scheduled for May 4, Lumen Field is unavailable to OL Reign as the stadium is already booked for the Seattle Sounders FC home leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Final.

So, unfortunately, all OL Reign can do is wait along with everyone else to see who they’ll face and where they’ll be playing that semifinal game next Wednesday. In the meanwhile, the team’s next game is their regular season opener, next Sunday, May 1 at Audi Field against the Spirit. That game kicks off at 2 PM PT and will air on Paramount+ for US viewers and on Twitch internationally.

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