Four games left in the regular season and the race to qualify for the NWSL Playoffs only gets hotter and more tense. OL Reign traveled down I-5 to meet their Cascadia rivals Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park. In the first meeting of the season back in June, Portland Thorns claimed the 2-0 victory at Lumen Field.
And just like the June meeting, Portland had the better of OL Reign. Portland scored two goals in a seven-minute span in the first half and OL Reign once again could not find the back of the net, continuing the massive lack-of-goals problem.
Portland's goals came from Hina Sugita in the 30th minute and Morgan Weaver in the 36th minute.
WHAT WORKED: 1 TINY DRAGON, 15,000 MINUTES AND COUNTING
Entering the match, midfielder Jess Fishlock only needed eight minutes to reach an incredible milestone having played in the league since Day 1. 15,000 minutes.
She did that, joining teammate Lauren Barnes and Gotham FC's McCall Zerboni as the only players to have reached such an incredible milestone.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: 7 MINUTES OF PAIN
It was going alright for the first half, but then a seven-minute span was nothing but pain as OL Reign conceded two goals in that window.
After Emily Sonnett committed a foul to get a yellow, OL Reign conceded the first goal in the 30th minute from the subsequent free kick. Jordyn Huitema tried to clear the ball, but Hina Sugita snuck in behind to take the deflection goal.
Five minutes after that, Portland had a chance to double the lead as a Morgan Weaver chance went off the crossbar. A second chance shot saw it go out for a Portland corner and Weaver was able to hit the mark from the second chance opportunity to double Portland's lead.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: CAN THIS TEAM SCORE A GOAL?
Laura Harvey has famously said, "Goals change games," and OL Reign have not done that in what feels like 84 years. Be it tactics not working, the fact that they've spent more match minutes chasing multi-goal deficits, and some random cosmic bad luck, OL Reign just cannot find the back of the net. Every string of passes they're able to build into an attack that looks like it can yield something does not translate into what Harvey has repeated many of times about lack of quality in the final third.
Only the players can solve this problem, and they better fix it quick because right now, despite the dumb luck of other results around the league giving OL Reign a lifeline, this is not a team that looks like they're going to the playoffs, unless they can find the back of the net multiple times in the remaining three matches.
"We gotta win games, we gotta pick up points," said Megan Rapinoe after the match. Defender and captain Lauren Barnes added, "We also gotta keep goals out of the net."
"I've been trying to impress people in Portland since I was 18."
Megan Rapinoe held back tears in talking about her final regular season appearance at Providence Park and the curtain call she got when she was subbed off in the 84th minute.
"I've been trying to impress people in Portland since I was 18, so you know to play college here and have so many amazing memories, even the rivalry, these are always the very best games. Even when you're on the losing end like tonight, this really sucks, but it's always really special playing here.
“A packed crowd, I don't think it was like all for me, but another meaningful game in a city that I love so much, that has meant so much to me, and such an important soccer city in our sport as well. I have so much love and respect for the fans here and how they show up for their teams and I have a lot of good friends on the other team," said Rapinoe after the match.
"We've got to turn those moments where we could turn the screw into goals, or the season's gonna end the way we don't want it to."
Laura Harvey after the match cited the stats after the match in which OL Reign had 9 total shots, with only 3 of them on target. Portland had 15 shots, 9 of them on target. She reiterated the importance of the team being able to make the most of their chances, turning them into goals.
"We've got to look at some of the things we did in the first half and turn in those slim little chances into quality chances. And in the second half, having that much of the ball and that momentum and push it. We have to look at those moments how we turn those momentum moments into goals."
Harvey continued about the frustration of not being able to convert the chances and how everyone needs to get on the same page.
"Most people know in the world know what Sophia and Pinoe do. It's not surprising what's about to happen — and they know too, Portland knows what's coming. So we have to be mindful of it, we have to commit to it. Second half, we were just inches off rather than miles off, I thought first half we were miles off on that. We gotta get on the same page and we've got to look at is it the right to cross? Is it an extra pass?"
Harvey shared a silver lining in terms of the team's playoff chances not completely out despite the loss tonight.
"We win our home games and we'll get in the playoffs."
Despite the loss, OL Reign remain in a playoff qualification spot with results around the league on Saturday night.
OL Reign and the NWSL are off next week because of a FIFA international window. The NWSL regular season campaign resumes on the final weekend of September, with OL Reign hosting North Carolina Courage on Sunday, September 1 with a 5 PM PST kickoff.
The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the US and those living in the greater Puget Sound region can also watch it on local television, FOX13+. International viewers can watch on NWSLsoccer.com and if you're in Canada, you can also watch on TSN+.