The NWSL regular season is here for OL Reign, and their work was cut out for them, opening on the road against the defending NWSL Champion Washington Spirit. Goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce posted double-digit saves as the champs showed the league why they are exactly that. Goals from Ashley Sanchez and Ashley Hatch bested OL Reign on Sunday afternoon at Audi Field en route to a victory. Rose Lavelle claimed OL Reign’s lone goal in the 53rd minute.
WHAT WORKED: PHALLON TULLIS-JOYCE
OL Reign were fortunate to be down only one goal at halftime, thanks in large part to the efforts of Tullis-Joyce. If her bandwagon was starting to fill up because of her form in the NWSL Challenge Cup, resulting in three-consecutive NWSL Save of the Week accolades, her name rose exponentially because of the world-class saves she made throughout the first half. It turns out when you have experience in stopping some of the world’s most dangerous attackers in France, some of that carries over and you can hold your own against some of the NWSL’s best, like Washington’s multi-faceted attack machine.
The two goals Tullis-Joyce conceded were just that good, and you have to respect the defending champs for having the quality to beat her on the day.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: ROSE LAVELLE’S PENALTY
Just like we don’t talk about Bruno, we don’t talk about this penalty take by Lavelle.
“She said what she needed to say.”
After the match, forward Ally Watt spoke about how Tullis-Joyce led the halftime talk and hit on what the team needed to do better after struggling at times through the first half. Thanks to that talk and OL Reign Head Coach Laura Harvey’s follow-up, the team started the second half more focused, resulting in Lavelle’s equalizing goal in the 53rd minute.
Harvey spoke after the match about the team’s recognition of playing through the middle versus forcing creation through the flanks. OL Reign’s goal started with forward Bethany Balcer running through the middle.
“We have the ability to play through midfield and we’ve got to be willing to do that. When we did that, we got Rose in the pocket, and Jess (Fishlock) in the pocket the first time, we were a threat. We know we can be a threat.”
Next up for OL Reign is another match against the Washington Spirit at Audi Field. The NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal is next for these two, as OL Reign are the number one seed in the knockout round and will be “hosting” the fourth seeded Spirit at Audi Field. We’ve already reported on the controversy of OL Reign having earned the top seed and hosting rights, only to be unable to host the semifinal game in Seattle, but the fact remains that they are in the knockout rounds of a cup competition and two wins away from winning this year’s NWSL Challenge Cup. In addition to bragging rights, winning the tournament comes with $10,000 in prize money for every player on the roster.
The NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal is scheduled to kick off on Wednesday, May 4 at 5 PM PT. It will air on CBS Sports Network in the US and on Twitch internationally.