Two matches on the road and a FIFA international break later, OL Reign finally held their 2023 home opener, hosting San Diego Wave FC on Saturday evening. In front of a new club record attendance for a home opener of 9,219, goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce claimed a share of the club record for most clean sheets, and Olivia Van der Jagt nabbed another stoppage time winning goal, as OL Reign handed San Diego Wave FC their first loss on the season, 1-0.
WHAT WORKED: FOCUS
All of the anticipation and excitement towards finally having their home opener, and OL Reign players, coaches, and office staff get a raw deal a few days ago with ownership group OL Groupe just so casually saying, “Oh by the way, we’re looking to sell the NWSL team.” Thankfully, it did not become a distraction on this evening. That off-the-field thing is going to be with the team over the course of the season, and hopefully it doesn’t become a narrative that is tied to whatever this team accomplishes on the field. Their resilience was on full display as the team prevailed in the end, capped with Van der Jagt’s stoppage-time winner. Some superhero saves by Phallon Tullis-Joyce highlighted a collective defensive effort to thwart scoring threats Alex Morgan and Amirah Ali.
WHAT WORKED: THIS PHALLON TULLIS-JOYCE DOUBLE-SAVE
Covering her 18-yard box like the Rockweed (Fucus spiralis) that blankets the Puget Sound, Tullis-Joyce came up big time in this double-save sequence.
Tullis-Joyce had another massive save later in the game, stopping again Alex Morgan in the 88th minute en route to her 11th clean sheet as an OL Reign goalkeeper. That makes her joint-leader with Hope Solo, Haley Kopmeyer, and Lydia Williams, and it’s just a matter of when Tullis-Joyce has sole possession of it.
Not one but TWO huge saves by @phallon91!! ❌❌ pic.twitter.com/gpTe7NEOPz— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) April 16, 2023
WHAT WORKED: YOU NEVER VAN DER JAGT ALONE
Last year in the NWSL Challenge Cup, Oliva Van der Jagt claimed her first professional goal with a match-winning goal to beat Angel City FC. Tonight, she claimed her first NWSL regular season goal, with the 90+5 minute bomb to beat San Diego. It’s a soccer love story that we very much could appreciate becoming a series.
Did someone say last-minute game-winning goal in your home opener?!? #ReignSupreme pic.twitter.com/14aFXvLCVn— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) April 16, 2023
WHAT WORKED: SEATTLE IS SHOWING UP
A Seattle Mariners game happening across the street, Sounders FC down in Portland, and yet Seattle is showing up for OL Reign matches, as they should be. A new club record for a home opener was set tonight with 9,219 and that’s good. Keep it up, Seattle and greater Puget Sound region.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: ANOTHER HALF OF POSSESSION BUT NO GOALS
Heard of this song before? OL Reign have the bulk of the possession, spend a lot of time in the opponent’s half, get a couple runs into the box, yet off-target shots or nothing to scare the opposing goalkeeper results in no goals. The players can be absolute artists and magicians with the ball, but sometimes they just need to forget all of that pretty stuff and just, as Sofia Huerta once said, “Shoot the shit out of it.”
Fans know that day will come, but there definitely is a fatigue of leading all of the stats but the most important one, the one that can get you the full three points, goals. The games will come where they can put in two, three goals and fully control a game from kickoff to the full-time whistle, but if they’re sprinkled among outings where they do everything but score, it’s going to be a roller coaster experience for everyone and not in a good way.
Some of that was credit to San Diego’s Kailen Sheridan tonight, who is one of the league’s best goalkeepers. But OL Reign have people who can score and should be able to. You don’t win the NWSL Championship in April and May obviously, but starting slow to then hopefully finish strong with some help around the league should not be their modus operandi this season. The talent on paper says they can light up the scoreboard, let’s see it sooner than later.
“It’s always in stoppage time”
Olivia Van der Jagt said in the postgame press conference that it’s become a running joke within the team that her goals (just two in her young professional career) are in stoppage time. It’s a small sample size and completely serendipitous, but what an asset to have in a skillset that continues to grow.
“Just trying to put the ball back on frame whenever it’s bouncing in the box and I feel like it’s kind of a job now on our team that it’s always in stoppage time. I don’t know why that happens, but I’m just so happy we got the win and that we did it as a team and we could show up for our fans tonight,” said Van der Jagt about what she saw in the moment in stoppage time.
“I actually blacked out, I had no idea who scored.”
When Harvey was giving her opening statement about the win in her postgame presser, she said exactly that about reflecting on the moment. Can’t blame the coach given the dramatics.
“The overall feeling about the game was - they are a good team, they’re coached well, they came with a strategy to try and stop us and it took us a little bit of time to work out how to sort of solve that. I think, in the second half, we started to really gain some momentum. I thinking (Wave FC goalkeeper) Kailen Sheridan pulled off some really good saves and then they had a couple of chances and (goalkeeper) Phallon (Tullis-Joyce) did really well. Obviously, we still cut it and just kept grinding away and obviously getting that late goal was great. I actually blacked out and I had no idea who scored,” said Harvey.
It’s a quick turnaround for OL Reign as they hit the road and head down to southern California to kick off their 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup campaign at Angel City FC. That match is scheduled for a weeknight kickoff on Wednesday, April 19 at 7 PM PST. The match will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network for viewers in the US, while international viewers can watch on NWSLsoccer.com.