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Five things we’d like to see when OL Reign face Portland

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The Pacific Northwest rivals face off Wednesday, Sept. 30.

2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Day 8 Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

After making their NWSL Fall Series debut, OL Reign travel to Portland for their rescheduled match against the Portland Thorns. After being postponed twice due to hazardous air quality, the two sides will meet Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 7 PM PT. The match will stream exclusively on Twitch for U.S. and international viewers.

The Portland Thorns earned a 3-0 win in their Fall Series opener against the Utah Royals, with goals from U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Lindsey Horan, rising U.S. player Sophia Smith, who made her NWSL debut in the 70th minute, and speedy forward Simone Charley.

That match was more balanced in the opening 15 minutes, where the Thorns had more of the ball but were unable to get dangerous shots off. They managed to pick up some steam to close out the half — and scored once thanks to a moment of brilliance from Charley — but still only had 2 shots on goal.

The Thorns came alive in the second half and finished the game with 21 shots (7 on goal) and 541 passes. It was a dominant performance, and one that Portland needed after having similar issues to the Reign in the Challenge Cup: a problem scoring goals.

So what can OL Reign do to make it a closer affair than Utah managed? Here are 5 things we’d like to see this match.

Early Dominance

The Reign could have left Utah with 3 points if the team didn’t have a few defensive lapses early in the game. Fortunately, they showed resilience to come back from a 2-0 deficit. But the Reign cannot let the same thing happen on Wednesday. We certainly wouldn’t complain about an early Reign goal.

Disrupt the Midfield

The Royals gave the Thorns midfield far too much time on the ball. Horan had 90 touches, defensive midfielder Angela Salem had 71 in just 70 minutes, and Raquel Rodriguez had 69. Those three players combined to create nine chances for the Thorns. The Reign midfield trio of Allie Long, Shirley Cruz and Rosie White were a lot more involved offensively against the Royals than they were in the Reign’s Challenge Cup games, but if the Reign want to limit Portland’s opportunities, they’ll need to be defensively strong and disrupt their midfield trio.

Watch out for Kling

Thorns left back Meghan Klingenberg had even more dominating stats than her teammates in midfield. She had 110 touches, 70 pass attempts, an 86% pass completion rate, and she created 6 chances. Those stats demonstrate how critical Kling is to the Thorns attack. The Reign will want to try to dispossess her higher up the field. They can also exploit the space behind her when she dashes into the attack.

Win the Duels

Portland has always been a gritty team that is willing to fight for every ball. Against Utah, they won 60% of the duels. The Reign will need to be tough and win the 50/50 balls — especially in the air, where Horan is lethal.

Handle the Crosses

Both of Utah’s goals against the Reign began with crosses. In the first, the Reign were unable to cleanly clear a cross into the box, and the clearance landed right at the feet of Aminata Diallo. On the second, they allowed the Royals far too much space out wide to get a cross off and let Tziarra King exploit space between defenders on the far post. The Thorns love to cross the ball, so the Reign defense will be tested. How will they show up?

How to Watch

The match kicks off at 7 PM PT on Sept. 30 and will stream on Twitch.

Injury Report

OL Reign

OUT: Kelcie Hedge (SEI – right knee), Julia Ashley (back), Lauren Barnes (loan), Celia Jiménez Delgado (loan), Jess Fishlock (loan), Machaela George (loan), Darian Jenkins (loan), Yuka Momiki (loan), Quinn (loan), Megan Rapinoe (voluntary opt-out)

QUESTIONABLE: Sam Hiatt (face)

Portland Thorns FC

OUT: Adrianna Franch (right knee), Bella Bixby (right knee), Celeste Boureille (loan)

OL Reign Fall Series Roster

Goalkeepers: Michelle Betos, Casey Murphy, Carly Nelson

Defenders: Julia Ashley, Amber Brooks, Steph Cox, Madison Hammond, Kim Hazlett, Sam Hiatt, Taylor Smith

Midfielders: Morgan Andrews, Shirley Cruz (INT), Allie Long (FED), Kristen McNabb, Dani Weatherholt, Rosie White (INT)

Forwards: Bethany Balcer, Sofia Huerta, Miranda Nild, Leah Pruitt, Jasmyne Spencer