It’s one more regular season meeting with that familiar Cascadia rival as OL Reign traveled down to Portland, Oregon for a weeknight match against the Portland Thorns FC. This match was scheduled to take place at the start of the month, but was postponed like all matches in the NWSL that weekend in response to the ongoing reckoning within the NWSL of systemic abuse and mistreatment of current and former players by head coaches since removed. The players remain engaged and committed to reclaiming the power that should have been theirs to begin with. Fans are encouraged to visit the NWSL Player’s Association website to learn more about the players’ demands and just as importantly, how they can support the players of the NWSL.
As for the match Wednesday night at Providence Park, perhaps there was a little bit of luck in the stars for Laura Harvey’s squad, as most of the night OL Reign played like a team exhausted after playing on Sunday and having a very short turnaround to meet their rivals. Portland scored in the third minute and will rue their chances and failure to add another goal. OL Reign eventually found their footing and had their chances, but it came to a dubious handball call in OL Reign’s favor, to which the returning Megan Rapinoe converted in the late stages of the game to make the night a 1-1 draw in Portland.
WHAT WORKED: THANK YOU VAR-LESS NWSL?
Portland Thorns fans, or anyone that isn’t a fan of OL Reign to be honest, will understandably be angry about the handball foul called on Angela Salem that set up the penalty. If the NWSL had VAR, the referee definitely goes to the monitor and probably doesn’t uphold her initial ruling. However, Portland right from the start of the match were the fresher side, which was unexpected after they spent the previous weekend on the road and had to return home for the match. OL Reign were not connecting on any passes and frankly were lucky to go into halftime down just one goal. OL Reign did look more encouraging in their runs, and their chances would probably have been dangerous shots on target if they didn’t have a two-day turnaround between matches. So perhaps with the temperature of the game being where it was, it was bound to happen that a game-shifting break would come to OL Reign, as if the hottest team in the league needed one, but hey — c’est la vie.
Especially when life gives you a returning Megan Rapinoe to take your penalty.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: CONCEDING FIRST
For all of the goals OL Reign has been scoring which have rightfully taken the headlines, their defense was also equally impressive. Until they conceded the first goal to Chicago this past Sunday, the last time that had happened was back on September 4 at Louisville. And just like in that game, OL Reign conceded another early opening goal, this time in the 3rd minute to Portland’s Morgan Weaver. Is it a cause for concern of an ugly trend reappearing again? You hope not with playoffs right around the corner, even if the offense has the look and feel that they can score at will.
“WE HAVE TO USE OUR COLLECTIVE POWER”
With Rapinoe returning to the field tonight, she spoke with media after the match about the NWSL players turning up the volume on in getting an overdue collective bargaining agreement with the league and what added perspective she might have, given her experience in the USWNT’s fight for equal pay.
“I’ve said this about a lot of different movements, I feel like they’re all connected, so you look at what happened in our league — a huge problem in our league is the lack of compensation that players make, which sort of allows for this environment where the players don’t really feel like they have power... they actually don’t really have power. There’s no player movement, and when you’re making sixteen or twenty-thousand dollars a year, it’s going to be a lot harder to put your career on the line, than if you’re making more money and maybe you feel like you have a little bit more power, so I feel like all of these things really are one group of people ruling over the other, trying to keep them down, keeping their voices down, and keeping their power to a minimum. So to me it’s all really interconnected. Hopefully we’re going to see a lot of progress with NWSLPA and the new CBA that’s being negotiated so we can take a step forward in professionalism. Nobody should be working for 10 months a year, making $20,000; I think that’s pretty ridiculous.”
Rapinoe also talked about the importance of not overlooking the voices of Black players in the league, past and present, in this critical moment.
Yes, and excuse me for leaving Kaiya (McCullough) out that’s totally my mistake, and thank you for bringing that up. Obviously I know I have one of the bigger voices in in the league, so anytime I can echo what Black (Women’s) Player Collective are saying, what the NWSLPA is saying, what these individual players are saying, I think my approach or responsibility right now is I don’t think I need to be out there leading any of this. I think we need to listen to the players that this has happened to and listen to the players that are most affected by this, and again — anytime if you see something, say something, and we need to protect each other.
Some of us have more power in the league, more pull in the media, or whatever it may be. We all need to be pulling in the same direction and it’s going to take all of us to make real meaningful change, so literally anything and everything that we can do and support each other whether it’s just on social media or wearing a t-shirt, or it’s in a private moment. Speaking up and always having those players’ backs, because we haven’t always had that, and even if you look at just 2020 with Black Lives Matter, kneeling, sometimes we aren’t all pulling in the same direction and it’s detrimental.
So support each other and do anything that we can to make sure that everyone can enjoy the same level of equality, and of course when it comes to playing, everyone should be in a safe environment. One comment is one comment too many. One inappropriate joke is one inappropriate joke too many. Nobody should ever have to deal with that and I think sometimes we just get used to it because it’s so prevalent in our league, or brush it off, or we don’t feel like we have the power to do anything and that’s completely bullshit.
We have to use our collective power.
The draw keeps the standings the same at the top — Portland Thorns remain in first, with OL Reign just one point behind. Both teams have two games left on their respective schedules, so while they have each clinched spots in the NWSL Playoffs, there is still a whole lot to play for including a top-two finish and bye in the first round of the playoffs, and they can also help write the fates of the other six teams mathematically still in the race for four remaining spots in the playoffs.
It’s back to the comforts of home for OL Reign as they host the Washington Spirit in their final home match of the regular season. Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, October 16 with a 7 PM PT start time. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for US viewers, while international viewers can watch on Twitch.