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Valkyratings: Not Lacking for Courage Edition

There were some solid performances, but Reign continue to look for a way out of doldrums.

Last Updated
8 min read
Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

So the Reign went to Cary, N.C., a place they traditionally tend to lose, while trying to break a four-match losing streak, and instead extended their losing streak to five. There was plenty of decent to good play. There was plenty of bad to inexplicably derelict-of-basic-duty refereeing. There was plenty of frustrating almost-there and infuriating but-why. The Reign do a ton of things that good teams do, and they do a ton of things better than other teams in the league, but if they can’t make that count for something, then it doesn’t mean a thing.

But anyway, soccer is a simple game. Twenty-two women chase a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end, the Courage always win.

With apologies, this edition of Valkyratings will be truncated for reasons of personal bereavement. While I have put in the work I can to rewatch, take notes, and care about these ratings, I do not have my usual 3-4k words of thoughts in me just now.


Laurel Ivory – 7

Once again, Laurel Ivory was on the wrong side of a losing effort, and once again it wasn’t her fault. No keeper should be expected to save the goal she gave up, and high-quality saves in the 41st and 88th minute kept the Reign alive when it could’ve been much worse.

Going Forward: Laurel Ivory is playing well enough to challenge for the injured Claudia Dickey’s starting spot.


Phoebe McClernon – 6 (off 69’ for Ryanne Brown)

Starting in the spot Lily Woodham has been struggling to hold down, Phoebe was defensively steady and consistent, choosing and completing safe passes in tight quarters, but also offering very little going forward and often opting to simply hoof the ball long when options grew thin, with her long balls rarely amounting to anything of use.

Going Forward: The improved defensive shape is likely worth it, but with Phoebe at left back, the Reign will even more desperately need their attacking five to do something.

Lauren Barnes – 6

As usual, Lauren Barnes was a steady presence leading the Reign from the back. She had the most touches on the team, and two key passes in the dying minutes that led to solid chances, first for Olivia van der Jagt, then for Bethany Balcer. She was a bit tentative and failed to even make Lussi’s life difficult on the Courage’s lone goal.

Going Forward: Barnes is the presumptive starter until further notice, but at some point we should actually look at what Shae Holmes and Julia Lester have to offer.

Alana Cook – 6

This was a much better performance for Alana Cook, who seems to be finding her touch and comfort again. Her choice of pass was better, and, importantly, she’s finding her form with the lethal long balls that made her so essential for springing quick attacks last year. In the 20th minute, she found Tziarra King for one of the Reign’s best chances, and by far their best chance of the first half. Like Barnes, she was a bit tentative and failed to make things hard on the attackers on Lussi’s goal.

Going Forward: Cook might be the player on this team I’m least worried about in the long term, and this was a promising performance in a difficult circumstance.

Sofia Huerta – 5

There’s positive signs for Huerta. She was, generally, better in possession, made smarter passes, didn’t hoof 30 mishit crosses to nobody, and combined better with her teammates. She also had 0 shot-creating actions, and was caught well upfield and out of the play on the Courage goal. While she hustled hard to get back defensively, she never comfortably got into a position to defend Ashley Sanchez, who cut the ball back for a backbreaking Tyler Lussi goal.

Going Forward: Huerta needs to start connecting with her attackers in dangerous ways. The Reign desperately need that.


Quinn – N/A (off 5’ for Olivia van der Jagt)

It sounds like it’s not the Dreaded Three Letter Acronym. Quinn’s early injury forced the Reign to burn an early substitution window, and once they were off, the vacuum left in the wake of their of comfortable two-way play was immediately felt.

Going Forward: Get healthy soon, Quinn.

Angharad James-Turner – 6 (off 69’ for Bethany Balcer)

It was a solid but not journal-worthy shift for Angharad James-Turner, who continues to turn in solid, well-worked performances in holding midfield that help the team tick but don't fill up the stat books. She won two tackles high up the pitch as a somewhat surprising part of a suddenly-effective Reign press that, sadly, could not get a goal.

Going Forward: Haz is a consummate professional who rarely puts a foot wrong and does a ton of the uncelebrated work that makes a midfield hum. She's just also not going to provide a ton of excitement going forward.

Jess Fishlock – 6

The thing about the attacking band of three is they were honestly very good. Fishlock was a pressing menace, winning tackles high up the pitch and combining with Ji So-yun and Tziarra King in good and sometimes even enticing and dangerous ways. A pass to Ji in the 57th produced an excellent chance as the Reign started to assert control and did everything except tie the game.

Going Forward: Fishlock and Ji are beginning to deeply understand each other, and we should expect that to be more and more of a problem for opposing defenses. The problem is goals change games, and she couldn't manufacture any.

Ji So-yun – 6

With Fishlock on a one woman mission to destroy dribbles, win the ball high, and make North Carolina’s defenders uneasy, Ji added her own flair, winning two tackles high up the pitch and contributing four shot-creating actions, including a very good chance at the death that Bethany Balcer almost made something out of. On another night, it could’ve been a plus outing. On Saturday, it honestly just wasn’t quite enough.

Going Forward: Ji So-yun was once again one of the best players on the pitch, as she has been for all but one match this year. The problem is goals change games, and she couldn't manufacture any.

Tziarra King – 6 (off 81’ for McKenzie Weinert)

While Tziarra King was the least active and most dispensable of the attacking midfield, she did a lot of smart things, making good runs, supporting the press, and making herself an outlet to relieve pressure at the back. She got on the end of an Alana Cook pass early for one of the Reign’s better looks, and if she’d done more with it, it might’ve been a different game. She also took an audacious shot that hit the woodwork, and frankly, that’s extremely rude of the soccer gods. More bangers for Zee, okay.

Going Forward: Zee looks sharper and more confident after her breakout sub appearance against Chicago. The problem is goals change games, and she couldn't manufacture any.


Veronica Latsko – 5 (off 69’ for Emeri Adames)

Latsko looked better than she did against Chicago, but was still largely ineffective, frequently losing possession on a rushed pass or hurried shot, failing to win either of the tackles she attempted, and struggling to make an impact off the ball. She brought energy and intensity, but it needed execution and direction.

Going Forward: The brand of controlled chaos Latsko offers is probably most valuable off the bench for the Reign.


Olivia van der Jagt – 7 (on 5’ for Quinn)

After Quinn’s devastating early injury, Olivia van der Jagt came on and denied the Courage any ability to build through the middle. Olo doesn’t offer the two-directional dynamism Quinn does, but she’s the best tackler on the team, she’s a nightmare to attack space against, and she’s just absolutely ferocious in shutting. shit. down. It’s not an accident that the Courage only scored while referee Flores was dedicatedly preventing her from playing.

Going Forward: Olo is a phenomenal midfield destroyer who shouldn't be expected to regularly spring the attack. A Quinn / Olo pairing in a midfield five might be worth looking at.

Ryanne Brown – 6 (on 69’ for Phoebe McClernon)

Ryanne Brown replaced Phoebe McClernon in the 69th minute and had a short but confident outing, progressing the ball nicely and keeping her side of the field locked down in a second half where the Reign started to tip the field against the Courage. I loved to see her dribble defenders with swagger and authority. More of that could help the Reign unlock some of their too-consistently misfiring attacking movements.

Going Forward: Ryanne Brown is a luxury to have as third left back on the depth chart. She's done well with limited minutes to showcase her stuff.

Bethany Balcer – 7 (on 69’ for Angharad James-Turner)

Bethany Balcer came on and instantly tilted the field as she took over primary forward duties, getting on passes from Ji, Barnes, Fishlock, Adames, everybody in dangerous places with intent to score. Casey Murphy had to come up with two huge saves on her to preserve the win for North Carolina. She should've won at least one penalty, and she was constantly in the right place at the right time to make shit happen. This was a fantastic performance and it deserved a goal, and possibly more.

Going Forward: I’ve been begging for the midfield and the outside backs to find Balcer. They started finding Balcer late in the match. We needed more of that, and probably needed it to start like 10 minutes earlier.

Emeri Adames – 6 (on 69’ for Veronica Latsko)

How many times can I say it? Emeri Adames came on and dealt. She’s getting more confident interplaying with Fishlock and Ji, she’s creative, and she’s dynamic. In the 90+6’, she took an entry pass from McKenzie Weinert on the run, quickly cut it back to Bethany Balcer, and deserved an assist for a well-worked play that ultimately came to nothing.

Going Forward: Young players are consistently inconsistent, but Emeri Adames is already so close and she is going to be a fucking star. And all my homies are going to love that for her.

McKenzie Weinert – 5 (on 81’ for Tziarra King)

McKenzie Weinert got another short runout, and while the Reign didn’t find the goal, she was solid, taking part in several good buildups as the Reign searched for an equalizer. Her best sequence was in the 90+6’, as she found Adames on the run and deserved a hockey assist for a well-worked, high-quality chance that ultimately came to nothing.

Going Forward: Weinert offers pace and attacking intent off the bench, and the Reign should feel free to use that more often.


Gerald Flores – 4

This was a bad performance on a few different levels. The first was just a matter of consistency. The match was physical as hell on a very slippery pitch, and Gerald Flores did not apply a particularly consistent rubric to his definition of a ‘foul’, with players on both sides seeming uncertain what he would or wouldn’t call. He played a major supporting role on the Courage’s goal, refusing to allow Olo van der Jagt to return to the pitch until North Carolina was already in the process of scoring in the soft middle she would have been defending, but showed no such insistence on keeping Ashley Sanchez off the pitch in a similar situation later. In second-half stoppage time, he waved off a possible-penalty on a foul on Balcer, and then moments later simply ignored one of the most clear-cut penalties you will ever see in this sport, as Balcer was (for what feels like the millionth time since she joined the league) absolutely annihilated in the area with no play on the ball.

The Reign made their bed in a lot of ways, but the ref tilted the field hard in some key moments. The 4 honestly might even be generous.

The Reign return home for a rematch against the San Diego Wave on Friday, May 3rd, at 7:00 PM. Keep the faith, kiss the homies goodnight, and show out to Lumen Field for your Reign. It's always darkest before the dawn.