FULL TIME: After a slow start to the game, Reign FC were the better team for the latter 30 minutes of the first half and deserved more than a 1-0 lead heading into halftime, which they got thanks to a Bethany Balcer goal.
The North Carolina Courage were the better team for most of the second half, although they did not have too many dangerous shots to test brand-new Reign FC goalkeeper Casey Murphy. And it was the Reign who would once again get on the scoresheet, with Shea Groom notching her first Reign goal in the 85th on a heads-up hustle play.
The Courage got one back instantly and were knocking on the door for the remainder of the match, sending one shot just wide and another off the crossbar. But Reign FC held on and walked away victorious over the 2018 NWSL Champions. The club has another home match on June 2 against the Houston Dash.
On Monday, Reign FC face off at home against the 2018 NWSL Champions, the North Carolina Courage. Their match at Cheney Stadium kicks off at 4 PM PT on May 27 and will stream on Yahoo! Sports (US) and the NWSL website (international).
Neither team has started off how they’d like, with the Courage going 2-1-3 in their first six matches and Reign FC at 1-1-3. However, while the Reign seem to be gaining momentum after a slow start, North Carolina dipped in May after their U.S. international players departed.
The Courage are now without centerback Abby Dahlkemper, midfielders Sam Mewis and Crystal Dunn, and forward Jess McDonald, who all got called up by the USWNT for the World Cup. Dunn already scored 4 goals and notched an assist for the Courage before getting swept away for World Cup prep. Brazilian midfield Debinha has been playing well in the midfield without the Americans, but she’s also now gone, along with Canadian goalkeeper Steph Labbe.
So who remains for the Courage? Lynn Williams has 3 goals and 2 assists for North Carolina, but continues to struggle to keep shots on target. Her speed and aggression in the attack means she’s going to get plenty of looks. Reign FC will need to keep those opportunities further away from goal.
Outside backs Jaelene Hinkle and Merritt Mathias are going to continue to provide width and speed on the flanks. They are a big reason North Carolina leads the league in crosses, attempting 184 so far in six matches (Reign are second with 112). Unlike other teams who try to take the ball to the endline and cut it across, the Courage often unleash crosses from deep. They’ve already scored two goals with their head — and remain dangerous from crosses even without their international players.
While Reign FC are losing a number of key players, they’ll have one big addition available for the game. Jess Fishlock is back in Tacoma after helping Lyon earn its fourth consecutive Champions League trophy. She may be called upon to not only offer a spark in the attack, but provide defensive cover for Reign FC’s brand new goalkeeper Casey Murphy, who has to step in for an injured Michelle Betos and World Cup bound Lydia Williams.
Absences: Injury, international duty and suspension
Reign FC will be without at least 10 players on Monday, with Jasmyne Spencer, Taylor Smith, and Michelle Betos all out for the season with injuries and the following players reporting to their countries for the World Cup: Megan Rapinoe (USA), Allie Long (USA), Celia Jimenez Delgado (ESP), Steph Catley (AUS), Elise Kellond-Knight (AUS), Jodie Taylor (ENG), Lydia Williams (AUS). Rumi Utsugi isn’t listed on the official NWSL injury report, although Japan indicates she will be joining them on Monday — making her status doubtful for the Reign.
North Carolina will have to replace up to nine players. Hailey Harbison (Left Knee) and Julie King (Left Thigh) are out, while Perea (Left Thigh/Illness) is questionable. Six players are out for the World Cup: Abby Dahlkemper (USA), Crystal Dunn (USA), Jessica McDonald (USA), Samantha Mewis (USA), Stephanie Labbé (CAN), and Debinha (BRA).
Keys to the Match
- Finish those chances: Look, I know this is obvious. But aside from the Courage (100), the Reign have actually taken the most shots in the league (64). Can you believe that? Against a team like North Carolina, who isn’t going to give you as many opportunities, the Reign have to be more clinical in front of goal.
- Score early: The Reign still haven’t scored first in a match this year. They start every game with more direct play and have created plenty of goal-scoring chances in doing so. If they score early, they can focus more on possession — keeping NC off the ball — and defensive shape. In doing so, they hopefully can dictate the flow of the match.
- Go the full 90: North Carolina relentlessly throws bodies forward in the attack and has scored the majority of their goals in the last 30 minutes of the match. Reign must stay composed until the end.
13’ - GOAL, Reign FC! A fantastic cross from Kristen McNabb finds the head of NAIA legend Bethany Balcer. Off the crossbar and into the net.
43’ - Shea Groom is SO close to putting in a second for Reign FC.
43' ALMOST TWO FOR REIGN FC! Shea Groom with a shot that bounces off the post and the back of North Carolina's Rowland and trickles along the mouth of goal, but Darian Jenkins isn't able to get there in time for the follow-through! #RFCvNC #SEAvNC pic.twitter.com/jKOKkT2QOS— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) May 27, 2019
HALFTIME: Reign FC are up 1-0 after 45 minutes.
85’ - Reign FC goal! Shea Groom gets her first in a Reign jersey.
89’ - NC Courage respond with a goal of their own off a corner.
The Dragon is back!
NC starting lineup
How to Watch
When: Monday, May 27 at 4 PM PT
Where: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma
Live stream (for users in the U.S.): Watch on Yahoo! Sports
Live stream (for users outside the U.S.): Watch on the NWSL website
More info: How to stream NWSL matches in 2019
Join the Discussion
This is your Reign FC v. NC Courage gamethread. Head to @rovalks on Twitter for real-time updates, or join the conversation in the comments below.