The losing streak continued on Sunday for OL Reign as they finally lost to a NWSL team from California. Angel City FC got the better of OL Reign for the first time in their short history with a 2-1 victory. Despite the return of the World Cup players and midfielder Jess Fishlock back to match fitness, albeit under a minutes restriction, OL Reign once again lacked quality in their attacking chances to go along with mistakes defensively and their unbeaten streak against California-based NWSL teams finally ended in Los Angeles.
Angel City's goals came from Clarisse Le Bihan in the 13th minute and Madison Hammond in the 57th minute. OL Reign got a consolation goal in the 73rd minute courtesy of Megan Rapinoe converting a penalty.
Before kickoff happened, the attention on OL Reign was that goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce was dropped to the bench in favor of Claudia Dickey. OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said the decision to start Dickey over Tullis-Joyce was based on Dickey's performance in the NWSL Challenge Cup, becoming the co-leader with three clean sheets in the group stage of that competition. Rewarding a player with a regular season start is obviously a gamble especially with everything to play for regarding positioning to qualify for the postseason, and as such the gamble did not pay off tonight.
WHAT WORKED: PINOE & PENALTIES
Finally, OL Reign got a penalty awarded in the second half after everyone on both sides basically stopped, but Bethany Balcer didn't and continued to play through and was taken down in the box. And who else but Megan Rapinoe to convert on the penalty to cut the deficit by half in the 73rd minute?
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: DICKEY'S GAMBLE
OL Reign conceding first was not good, and how it happened was painful. Credit to former OL Reign player Madison Hammond for recognizing that OL Reign players were just ball-watching, sending the ball deep to Scarlett Camberos out on the flank. Her run caused goalkeeper Claudia Dickey to come way out of her box to gamble on getting the ball, and it didn't pay off. Camberos' cross crawled across the penalty box that three Reign defenders could not clear out with the empty goal, for Clarisse Le Bihan to smash in for the opening goal. This was not good at all from a supposed-to-be tight and focused defensive unit.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: VAR
Can someone smarter than us tell us what is a handball in 2023?
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: NO QUALITY IN THE FINAL THIRD, AGAIN
Like a bad song on repeat, OL Reign once again could not do much with the ball in the final third. They may have controlled possession and really owned the second half in terms of keeping Angel City without a shot for most of it, but it did not translate to attacking runs to make Angel City goalkeeper DiDi Haračić really work.
Dickey's blunders in goal, the no-handball awarded to them in the first half aside, the onus is still on the team to have the ball and do something with it when they're in their opponent's third. Five regular season matches to go, OL Reign know they must start putting the ball in the back of the net multiple times or they're not going to the playoffs.
"We know what we have to do."
OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe spoke after the match about how despite losing tonight to extend the club's losing streak to three games, there wasn't a sense of panic or desperation within the team. "To drop all three points is not good – we needed something out of this game. It's not impossible, but everything is very tight and we know the objectives, and we know that not only do we need to play better, but we can play much better. We need to be a lot calmer and show our quality in games like this."
"We can't rely on anyone else but ourselves."
Even with the loss tonight at Angel City, OL Reign would still be in the playoffs if they were to start tomorrow. OL Reign coach Laura Harvey had a pragmatic view of tonight's loss, with the bigger picture of how results around the league have kept OL Reign in the playoff picture. "Results sort of went on our way this weekend. We can't rely on anyone else but ourselves. We have to go out there and put on performances that deserve results. I thought we put maybe a 30-minute performance today and we've got to turn that into a 90-minute performance."
The loss keeps OL Reign in 6th place in the standings with 24 points, the final NWSL Playoff qualification spot. OL Reign are back in the comforts of home for their next match, as they host Orlando Pride on Sunday, September 3. The game will be an afternoon affair, scheduled for a 3 PM PT kickoff, and will be the club's annual Fan Appreciation match. In addition to the usual broadcast options of Paramount+ for those in the US and NWSLsoccer.com for international viewers, the match will also be broadcast on local TV, FOX13+.