After a three-match homestand in which they picked up seven of a possible nine points, OL Reign were back on the road on Saturday afternoon. A trip to Bridgeview, Illinois, to face the Chicago Red Stars was not a good one as OL Reign fell to the Chicago, 0-1. Mallory Pugh scored the lone goal of the match in the 47th minute.
It was a frustrating Saturday afternoon on the field for OL Reign, while viewers on Twitch had their own frustrations, as poor stream quality was once again a talking point during an NWSL broadcast.
WHAT WORKED: PHALLON TULLIS-JOYCE
If you’re looking for a silver lining in this loss, it’s that OL Reign only lost by one goal because goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce put in another stellar performance. Pugh had her day against OL Reign’s usually solid back line. Yet for all of Pugh’s efforts to add to Chicago’s lead, Tullis-Joyce denied her. Begrudge all you want about fan votes, but if Tullis-Joyce wins another NWSL Save of the Week honor, she would have absolutely earned it with stops like this.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THE BROADCAST, AGAIN
We’ve heard this song before, “NWSL streams are bad and they should feel bad.” It wasn’t the level of the notorious OL Reign at San Diego Wave FC Challenge Cup match where we missed the first 20 minutes, which included Ally Watt’s first OL Reign goal, but the Twitch stream of today’s match tested everyone’s patience through the first half, with constant pauses to buffer the stream and then pixelated madness that looked like a 21st century Jackson Pollock.
We’ve said it before, but one of the many priorities of NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman is to ensure the next broadcast deal is of high quality. This includes the international streaming rights, which with Twitch are set to expire at the end of this season, while the US broadcast deal with CBS ends after the 2023 season. Regardless of whether the league re-ups with Twitch or chooses a different streaming platform, there must be a serious commitment to invest in the resources and technology that, you know, works, because this is unacceptable.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: STARTING THE SECOND HALF
Within the minute of starting the second half, OL Reign conceded the opening goal. Pugh got the goal, but it was set up by a bad clearance attempt by Sofia Huerta. Rather than send the ball all the way out to the far sideline for a throw, it fell right to Sam Fisher at the 18-yard box, who passed it to Pugh — and the rest is history.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: LACKING ATTACKING CREATIVITY
With losses like today, it stands out how dependent OL Reign can be on certain choices to set up their attack. Yes, Huerta’s crosses can be money, but when they’re not finding the targets in the box, it can also stand out how there doesn’t appear to be a solid second option. Credit to Chicago’s defense for staying compact and being prepared to anticipate an afternoon of shots, yet OL Reign only registered five total shots today, a fraction of what they were throwing up last week across three matches. Time might be on OL Reign’s side in terms of developing other attacking concepts, but they do need to be proactive in identifying those options with the players they have and the wealth of skills each of them possesses.
“This was definitely a tough one for us.”
Tullis-Joyce and midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt spoke with media after the match about the group’s struggle to play the game they wanted to, specifically in their attacking half, and to make the most of their opportunities.
”It’s a tough one to swallow, coming here to Chicago and just not feeling like we quite found ourselves on the field. We didn’t quite do that, so that doesn’t sit well with us. There are just so many things to take away from this game and if we can keep it at 1-0 with how we played, then the sky’s the limit with how much better we can be in the future,” said Tullis-Joyce.
“The chances that we get, just capitalizing on those and then also just down to the small things, just making sure in our defensive third, just making sure all of the small things are bridging all the little things that help us be successful,” added Van der Jagt.
OL Reign remain on the road for their next match, but it’ll be in the same time zone as their own as they travel to southern California to face San Diego Wave FC in their temporary home at Torero Stadium. The match is scheduled for Sunday, June 12, with a 2 PM PT kickoff. US viewers can watch on Paramount+ while international viewers can watch on Twitch.