After playing in a series of Challenge Cup matches while their national team players were away for the World Cup, OL Reign returns to regular-season play on Friday, August 18. They’ll head on the road to face the Kansas City Current at Children’s Mercy Park in a match that kicks off at 5 PM PT.
The game will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and on the NWSL website for all other international viewers.
Angelina, Quinn, and Jordyn Huitema returned from World Cup duty last week, have been training with the team and are expected to be available for selection. The team’s five USWNT players also returned to Seattle this week, but during her pregame press conference OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said they have been given the weekend off because they did not have an opportunity to fully resume training before the team needed to travel for the match. Jess Fishlock is also still recovering from an injury but should be ready next week.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Friday’s road match.
Two weeks ago, OL Reign played to a scoreless draw at home against the Portland Thorns. The draw clinched the top spot in the NWSL Challenge Cup knockout round, meaning the Reign will host Racing Louisville in a Sep. 6 semifinal.
Kansas City won 3-0 at home over Racing, helping them clinch the top spot in the Challenge Cup Central group. The Current will host the other Challenge Cup semifinal against the North Carolina Courage. The winners of the two semifinals will face off in the final on Sep. 9.
After 15 regular-season matches, OL Reign has a 7-5-3 record. Their 24 points puts them in fourth place in tight league standings; the Reign are just two points out of first. Kansas City has a 5-10-0 record and sits at the bottom of the league. Standings, however, mean nothing in the NWSL. Every team can compete on a given day.
OL Reign has scored 23 goals while conceding 18. The Current has scored 17 and conceded 26.
Head to Head
This is the second meeting between OL Reign and Kansas City this year. The two sides met in June at Lumen Field, where goals from Sofia Huerta and Huitema put the Reign on top 2-1.
The Reign are 5-3-0 all-time against the Current.
Who to Watch
Forward Kristen Hamilton is heating up. She’s scored five goals in the Current’s last three Challenge Cup matches. She hasn’t always started for Kansas City after missing the start of the season with an injury, but she made good use of her extra minutes during the World Cup break. Hamilton is fast and can be dangerous on the dribble. She’s also got great timing in the box.
What to Watch
Direct in transition
Kansas City is a team that likes to strike in transition. They don’t high press all the time, but they know when to pounce and where to prevent space when defending. Kansas City has scored four goals from high turnovers, which is second-best in the league behind Portland.
“Their biggest threat is in transition, and we have to be prepared for that. In all of their games that they’ve played recently too, they’ve been really dominant at it,” Harvey said ahead of the match. “It doesn’t mean they can’t hurt you in other ways, but I think that is definitely their biggest strength going forward is the ability for them to transition on you when you give the ball away.”
That means the Reign will have to be smart building out of the back and not play into Kansas City’s traps. And if they lose it, they’ll need to stay organized behind the ball.
Fullbacks are important
As you can see from a recent pass map for the Current, they use their fullbacks a lot in possession. Their fullbacks, Hailie Mace and Kate Del Fava, push wide and high to be an early outlet as Kansas City tries to build out of the back. They lead their team in passes attempted and progressive passing distance.
Mace has completed the most long balls on the Current roster. Del Fava has the most passes into the final third.
OL Reign did well to prevent this in their earlier match, having their wide forwards drop to cut off balls to the flanks. Presumably, they’ll attempt a similar strategy on Friday.
OL Reign already accomplished their first goal of the season: advancing to the Challenge Cup playoffs. Next up? Securing a spot in the NWSL playoffs. To do that, they need to pick up points on the road. The Reign are just 2-3-2 on the road this year.
Injury / Availability Report
OUT: Jess Fishlock (leg)
OUT: Vanessa DiBernardo (concussion), Hanna Glas (D45 – knee), Morgan Gautrat (concussion), Claire Lavogez (SEI – knee), Sam Mewis (SEI – knee), Desiree Scott (D45 – knee), Jordan Silkowitz (hand), Mallory Weber (SEI – knee)
How to Watch
OL Reign kicks off against the KC Current at 5 PM PT on Friday, August 18. The match will stream on Paramount+ (U.S.) and the NWSL website (international).