Sometimes they don't have to be pretty. A win is a win.
As a founding club of the NWSL, you can argue that OL Reign has seen it all and been through a lot of it, yet the chaos of a straight red card issued to the opposing goalkeeper in the third minute of a match has to be up there among the wildest starts to a game for OL Reign. Orlando goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse committed a clear and obvious denial of a goal-scoring opportunity on Reign forward Bethany Balcer right from the jump and was shown her marching orders without hesitation.
While it was frustrating at times for OL Reign to not take full advantage of being up a player for nearly the full game and absolutely barrage the Pride for multiple goals, the lone goal scored by Jordyn Huitema in the 49th minute was enough for OL Reign to get the win, the full three points, and move them back into a playoff qualification spot.
The early red card to Orlando reminded OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey of a match in the 2017 season where defender Lauren Barnes was issued a straight red in the 4th minute and the team was able to hold on for a 1-1 draw against FC Kansas City.
Claudia Dickey remained the starting goalkeeper for OL Reign despite conceding two goals in last weekend's loss at Angel City FC. Dickey got her first NWSL regular season clean sheet with the 1-0 victory.
WHAT WORKED: CAPITALIZING ON A SECOND CHANCE
It took longer than anyone wanted, but OL Reign finally found the back of the net against Orlando, as a kick save by Orlando's goalkeeper Carly Nelson presented Jordyn Huitema with a ball basically at the penalty spot to claim her 5th goal of the NWSL regular season.
Huitema entered the match in the 10th minute, replacing an injured Bethany Balcer, and right from being called into duty put in a solid shift as the tip of the spear in OL Reign's attack.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: PLAYER ADVANTAGE FOR 87 MINUTES, ONLY ONE GOAL
Getting back in the win column is nice for OL Reign, but it should not be lost on anyone that they went basically the whole match with a player advantage and only had one goal to show for it. Credit to Orlando goalkeeper Carly Nelson to enter the game in such an emergency situation and make some Save of the Week-caliber stops in the first half – notably a Jess Fishlock strike and Jordyn Huitema header – but the scenario was ripe for this squad with so many forwards who can score to lay the hammer.
”The biggest thing was three points, no question, and we got that.”
It may not have been pretty and certainly they would have liked to have scored a few more, but OL Reign needed the win to boost their playoff chances in what remains a very tight league table. After the match, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said, “I thought it was the occasion, sort of how important the three points were, I think – there was some tightness from us in the first half. I thought in the second half we moved the ball a little bit better, especially in the first 20 minutes of the second half, I thought we came out and we were really good in the first, sort of 15-20 minutes and then we sort of took our foot off the gas again, which is something that we've done in a lot of games lately, so we need to look at that.
“We've played against 10 players now a couple of times and I think this is the first time we've actually really won. It's tough. It can be tough, they either drop off like Orlando (Pride) did or come after you, like Houston (Dash) did. I think, for us, when a team drops off like that, we have to play what they give us and I didn't think we did that in the first half – I thought we did that more in the second half. A couple of really good saves by their goalkeeper who came in. The game could've been over and done with after 60 minutes, but we need to take more of our chances and create more opportunities. The biggest thing today was three points, no question, and we got that.”
”We're always coached to look for the space.”
The turning point so early into the match was obviously the straight red issued to Orlando's Anna Moorhouse. That situation came about from a ball over the top sent by defender Phoebe McClernon. McClernon was asked about creating that chance.
“I think that we're always coached to look for the space that they're giving away and they were playing a really high line today, so it definitely was conducive to balls over the top. Then, I think, once you start to do that, you have to readjust, so you have to start playing shorter, playing wide, using your other skills out there. So, it's just kind of what the game gave us,” McClernon said.
The win puts OL Reign back into the NWSL Playoff qualification zone, 4th in the standings with 27 points and four regular-season games remaining.
It's a quick turnaround for OL Reign as they're back on the pitch at Lumen Field for the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal in just three days. OL Reign will host Racing Louisville on Wednesday, September 6 with a 7 PM PT kickoff. The match will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network for those in the US, while international viewers can watch on NWSLSoccer.com.