With everything to play for and a potential home playoff match on the line, OL Reign played the Chicago Red Stars off their waterlogged pitch, punching their ticket to the postseason with a resounding 3-0 win.
Though the Reign came out the gate with all the pressure, it felt like a familiar narrative repeated too many times: Megan Rapinoe put a hard shot just wide. Jess Fishlock absolutely demolished the crossbar. With Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher 30 yards out of her goal, the Reign weren't quite quick enough to take advantage, and Naeher got back in the nick of time to save Rapinoe's chip off her foot. A minute later, Veronica Latsko picked off a back pass in the area, only for Arin Wright to clear Fishlock's blistering shot off the goal line. Quinn had a free header on a corner and put a looping ball well over the bar. Rapinoe won the ball back at the top of the box and fed Jordyn Huitema, who put in a hard shot that ultimately resulted in nothing more than stinging Naeher's palms. Huitema won a foul with her feet already in the penalty area, but it was called a free kick just outside the area, and Rapinoe put it off the wall. Like so many other opening frames this season, it was frustrating, scoreless, and anxious, with every good idea coming to naught.
But behind a Rapinoe brace and a beautifully timed (and VAR-assisted) Fishlock run in behind, the Reign seized control in the second half, breaking away from the hosts, and taking their fate by the horns. Rapinoe will get one more home game. The postseason, and one last quest for the most elusive trophy, await them.
WHAT WORKED: FIFTY-ONE FOR PINOE!
After a first half of increasingly frustrating futility as chance after chance went begging, Megan Rapinoe decided to implement the brilliant strategic shift of simply scoring some bangers. She broke the deadlock in the 47th minute with a laser from the corner of the area, then added another in the 50th minute with (and stop me if you've heard this before) a laser from the corner of the area.
The brace means Rapinoe will finish with 51 regular-season NWSL goals across her career – few more impactful than these, to secure another postseason appearance for her side, and at least one more club match in her exquisite and storied career.
WHAT WORKED: Gs FOR THE OGs!
It's the end of an era for OL Reign, but at least for the night, we were treated to a deep reminder of the generational brilliance of Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock, as both Reign originals scored gigantic goals in a gigantic game. Through 70 minutes, they combined and played off each other like the Shield-winning sides of 2014 and 2015. With a frustrating match – and a postseason berth – seeming in danger of slipping away, they put the game away in clinical fashion. And while Lauren Barnes didn't score, she repeatedly got in on the buildup to win back the ball and keep chances alive, and she repeatedly broke up Chicago attacks before they could become dangerous.
They'll play together at least one more time, and tonight they gave us an emphatic reminder of just how good they still are, and just how good they've always been.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK: FINISHING THE EARLY CHANCES
The Reign came out with pressure and purpose for the first 35 minutes, producing (and stop me if you've heard this before) chance after chance while somehow managing to avoid hitting the back of the net. Rapinoe wide. Fishlock off the crossbar. Naeher unpunished for her myriad inadvisable adventures. It was an absolute clinic on not finishing the chances presented to you.
And like it has so many other times this season, the first half ended scoreless, the Reign controlling the game while failing to establish any control over the game. The second half upended what felt like an all-too-familiar narrative, but the Reign still need to find a way to score early and set the tone when they have all the pressure and all the momentum.
"IT'S WHAT SHE DESERVES"
"You know my message.” Laura Harvey did not mince words about the upcoming final home playoff match for Megan Rapinoe. "There’d best be 34,000 again there on Friday night, because that's how we give her what she deserves. And that's how we give this team what it deserves. It's okay doing it once, but we believe that we should have that every week.
"So that's my message, come out, support this team, get behind us and let's get ourselves into a semi final."
"THIS IS OUR LAST CHANCE, COULD BE OUR LAST GAME"
Agreeing with Jess Fishlock's praising of a strong, professional performance, Claudia Dickey added her own thoughts when talking to the press after the game. "I think it showed that when we're on, we're impossible to beat. I think everybody kind of had the same attitude going into this."
Speaking to the importance of the game and the performance, she continued, "Like, this is our last chance, could be our last game to go out there and put everything... and I think we've been working towards that, and I feel like we've had a tough few games recently, but we've always had each other's backs. I think we've been pushing each other every day.
"So just upward from here. Awesome."
With the win, and Gotham drawing 2-2 against Kansas City, OL Reign clinched the fourth seed and earned the right to host a quarterfinal playoff match. Because of Angel City’s absolute demolition of the Portland Thorns, they climbed to 5th and will travel to Seattle for a game at Lumen Field which kicks off at 7 PM PT on Friday, October 20. The winner of that game will travel to San Diego to face the Shield-winning Wave in the semifinals.