After a disappointing loss at home, Reign FC head on a two-game road trip. Their first stop is a match against Sky Blue FC, a team that just defeated the red-hot Chicago Red Stars in stoppage time. The match kicks off at 10 AM PT on Sunday, August 18 and will broadcast on ESPNEWS and stream on ESPN.
The match won’t be played at Sky Blue’s typical home turf of Yurcak Field. After the team noticed a significant uptick in ticket sales, they quickly moved the game to the nearby Red Bull Arena and began pushing tickets hard. Two days ago, Sky Blue announced they had distributed more than 8,000 tickets for the game.
Despite the difference in the clubs’ records — and historical struggles of the New Jersey side — Sky Blue and Reign FC match up fairly equally in many categories. That includes pass completion, crosses attempted, fouls conceded and goals scored. Where the Reign have the advantage is on the defensive end, as the Tacoma side have allowed 18 goals to Sky Blue’s 23.
What to Watch
Outside backs: Sky Blue relies on its outside backs in possession. In fact, right back Caprice Dydasco is among the top 5 in the league in touches per 90 minutes. In the last few weeks, Imani Dorsey has transitioned from forward to left back. She’s still learning many nuances on the defensive end — like positioning and 1-v-1 defending — but Dorsey brings speed to provide a threat on the counter.
Shot conversion: Both teams are in the bottom of the league in shot conversion. Sky Blue and Reign FC are last in goals scored. The Reign have yet to lose a match when they score first. With Sky Blue giving up the most shots in the NWSL, the visiting side is going to need to be more clinical in front of goal. Otherwise, this could be a low-scoring affair.
Finishing the match: Sky Blue showed resilience in their midweek match to recover from conceding an equalizer in stoppage time. It’s not the first time they have let their opponent score late. Reign FC have also found themselves in trouble in the second half — including last weekend against Utah. Can Reign FC keep the momentum going in the final minutes of the match?
Raquel (“Rocky”) Rodriguez: The Costa Rican midfielder just returned from the Pan American Games with a Bronze medal. She’s been Sky Blue’s best player throughout the season and leads the team with 3 goals. Rocky holds onto the ball well, which means she also gets fouled a lot in the process. Rodriguez scored against the Reign in May and is the link on both sides of the ball, helping break up play in the middle of the field and shuttle the ball forward.
Paige Monaghan: The rookie forward is coming off a brace in Sky Blue’s mid-week match, which marked her first professional goals. Both goals were incredibly well taken, with the last coming in the final seconds of the game after Chicago equalized a minute prior. She’s got momentum on her side.
Kailen Sheridan: The Canadian goalkeeper has been having a Goalkeeper of the Year kind of season. She’s buttoned up some of the weaker parts of her game and looks more confident than ever. It’s going to be hard to get around her — so Reign will need to be precise in front of goal.
Absences: Injury, international duty and suspension
OUT: Jasmyne Spencer (SEI - Knee), Taylor Smith (SEI - Knee), Michelle Betos (SEI - Right Achilles), Jaycie Johnson (SEI - Right Knee), Scout Watson (SEI - Concussion), Jessica Fishlock (SEI - Left Knee), Lydia Williams (45D - Left Ankle), Stephanie Cox (Right Calf), Rumi Utsugi (Left Calf), Megan Rapinoe (L Achilles), Kristen McNabb (L Soleus)
OUT: Mandy Freeman (Right Achilles), Madison Tiernan (Left Knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Gina Lewandowski (Left Foot), Domi Richardson (Left Ankle)
By the Numbers
7-4-5, 26 points, 4th place | 15 goals for, 18 goals against
Shots: 180 | On target: 70
Bethany Balcer: 3 goals, 1 assist
Casey Murphy: 39 saves, 12 goals against, 5 clean sheets
Sky Blue FC
3-11-3, 12 points, 8th place | 12 goals for, 23 goals against
Shots: 146 | On target: 49
Raquel Rodriguez: 3 goals, 1 assist
Kailen Sheridan: 54 saves, 14 goals against, 2 clean sheets
Reign FC versus Sky Blue FC kicks off at 10 AM PT on Sunday, August 18 at Red Bull Arena. The match will stream on ESPN and the NWSL website for international fans. We’ll have a separate gamethread to discuss the match.