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Reign FC fall to Chicago Red Stars in front of a record crowd

First back-to-back regular season losses under the Vlatko Andonovski era.

Reign vs Red Stars MikeRussellFoto

After a month and a half of matches on the road, Reign FC finally had a home match in front of a record crowd against the Chicago Red Stars.

A new single-match home attendance record was set at Cheney Stadium on Sunday afternoon — 7,479 fans filled every nook & cranny possible, and they saw a dominating the Chicago Red Stars.

It was not a good opening 15 minutes for Reign FC as the Red Stars struck early for two goals that broke a normally sound defensive Vlatko Andonovski-coached side.

Chicago’s first goal came in the 4th minute when Arin Wright made the most of a rebound opportunity after Reign FC goalkeeper Casey Murphy blocked a Yuki Nagasato effort. Wright’s shot went upper left to open the scoring.

Their second came in the 14th minute, when Chicago’s Sam Kerr had a run on the right flank that understandably drew everyone’s attention. This opened up the middle of the field for Vanessa DiBernardo to virtually waltz in, collect a pass from Kerr and beat Murphy.

The second goal prompted the Reign to huddle up before the restart and talk about not letting the game slip away from them. It worked temporarily. Reign FC showed sparks of life in the remainder of the first half. In the 37th minute midfielder Bev Yanez had a prime opportunity to pounce on a deflection, but Chicago’s Julie Ertz was right there to disrupt the ball’s path.

In stoppage time of the first half, midfielder Allie Long had a point-blank chance that she put too much on, sending it over the goal.

The second half once again started out in favor of the Red Stars as Yuki Nagasato claimed their third goal in the 51st minute. Red Stars head coach Rory Dames had Nagasato lined up in the left wing to go against right back Theresa Nielsen, and his decision paid off handsomely as Nagasato dominated that individual matchup all afternoon.

The Red Stars claimed their 4th goal on the day in the 81st minute when Kerr snuck through the Reign FC back line. Despite protestations from Reign FC players that she was offside, Kerr slotted one past Murphy. Replays showed that their protests were in vain as Reign FC forward Bethany Balcer had dropped in a right wingback role moments earlier and unfortunately kept Kerr onside on the play.

Despite all the pomp and circumstance of Reign FC welcoming their World Cup heroes, and shattering their old single-match home attendance record, it was all Chicago Red Stars at Cheney Stadium. Today marked the first back-to-back regular season losses under Andonovski’s tenure. The disappointment was not lost on the team after the match.

“They were just better than us,” Andonovski said in his post-match press conference. “[Chicago] found lots of space between our lines and executed everything they tried very well.”

Long was asked after the match about her goal opportunity in stoppage time of the first half and how that could have swung the momentum for Reign FC going into halftime. “I think that would have changed the momentum before half, that was huge.”

Defender Steph Catley also mentioned the chances Reign FC had, and how if they finished one of them and beat a very much in-form Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, they could have kept the fight up and possibly gotten a result. “Sometimes football can be like that and today Chicago, all credit to them, they were brilliant,” the Australian defender said after the match.

As much as the club, from players to staff, had been looking forward to this match, and were hoping to give the crowd a show in their favor, it just wasn’t the case on Sunday afternoon. The Chicago Red Stars are a loaded team and everything went in their way on the field on Sunday. Reign FC are better than this and know they can recover from it and pick up a result in the next match and keep the chase for to the NWSL playoffs tight.

Reign FC hit the road for their next match, heading to Texas to face the Houston Dash for the last time this regular season on Friday, August 2. The will be the first time Reign FC are on TV this season, as the match will be broadcast on ESPNEWS with a scheduled start time of 4 PM PDT.

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