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Five things we’d like to see when Reign host Sky Blue

Hint: early goals.

Kayla Mehring

On Saturday, Reign FC hosts Sky Blue FC at Cheney Stadium. The match kicks off at 7 PM PT and will stream on Yahoo! Sports. To keep themselves in the playoff race, Reign FC really need three points. Here are 5 things we’d like to see in the match.

1. Reward the early pressure with a goal (or two)

Reign FC have yet to lose a match when they score first. The club is 7-0-1 (W-L-T) when they get on the scoreboard before their opponent. On the flip side, the team only has one win in the 11 matches where they’ve given up the first goal. Too much math for you? The Reign do really, really well when they score first. They’ve put teams under plenty of pressure at the start of matches — it’s time to reward that pressure with a goal, or two, or three. Perhaps a repeat of the Orlando match? Pretty please?

2. Hold on for 90 minutes

The Reign have given up 7 goals (out of 23 total) in the final 15 minutes of the match. Just last weekend, they had to rely on a last-second equalizer from Ifeoma Onumonu to walk away from Washington, D.C. with a point. That scramble to come from behind occurred because the team let the Spirit score in the 90th minute. This can’t be a 75-minute performance. The Reign have to see games out for the rest of the regular season.

3. A Jodie Taylor goal

Jodie Taylor has worked hard for the Reign since returning from the World Cup. She only has two goals on the season to show for it, however. Taylor earned the assist on Onumonu’s goal last weekend, but she struggled to get herself in goal-scoring positions. In fact, Taylor didn’t manage a shot that game. Taylor remains an important part of the Reign attack, but a goal this weekend would sure help her confidence and hopefully give Taylor some momentum heading into two more matches the following week.

4. Keep Carli Lloyd contained

Carli Lloyd leads Sky Blue with five goals and one assist. She’s been playing further up the field in recent months — similar to how the U.S. has been utilizing her. She recently had 3 shots against North Carolina — and a goal — and 11 shots against the Houston Dash to go along with two goals. Lloyd works well in tight spaces and can strike from distance and with her head. She’s also a physical player, so the Reign will have to mark her tight and close down quickly. And don’t let her slip behind or sneak into the box on a set piece — she’s got a goal-poaching mentality.

5. A shutout sure would be nice

It’s really hard to lose when you don’t let the other team score. The Reign defense has given up a goal or more in its last five matches. This is a team that can and should be holding teams scoreless. Sky Blue enters the match with the fewest goals scored in the league (16, compared to 21 for the Reign). No breakdowns. No big mistakes. Don’t let Sky Blue get into the match off a counter.

The lineup we expect

Forwards: Darian Jenkins, Jodie Taylor, Bethany Balcer

Midfield: Rosie White, Bev Yanez, Kristen McNabb

Defense: Steph Catley, Lauren Barnes, Megan Oyster, Theresa Nielsen

Goalkeeper: Casey Murphy

Injury Report

Reign FC

OUT: Taylor Smith (SEI - Right Knee), Jasmyne Spencer (SEI - Left Knee), Michelle Betos (SEI - Right Achilles), Jaycie Johnson (SEI - Right Knee), Scout Watson (SEI - Concussion), Jessica Fishlock (SEI - Left Knee)

QUESTIONABLE: Allie Long (Left Hip)

Sky Blue FC

OUT: Mandy Freeman (Right Achilles), Madison Tiernan (Left Knee)

Note: We’re trying a new format for the Reign scouting report — answering questions about the five things we hope to see in the match as a different way to profile the Reign’s opponent. Let us know what you think.

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