After a FIFA international break, which saw the arrivals of Sarah Bouhaddi and Dzsenifer Marozsán, it was back to work for OL Reign as they traveled to Cary, North Carolina to take on the North Carolina Courage. The first meeting between the two sides back on May 15 was a scoreless draw. Unfortunately this meeting did not go their way as OL Reign fell to the North Carolina Courage, 1-2.
WHAT WORKED: STRIKE A GOAL, STRIKE A POSE, JESS FISHLOCK, MBE
The obvious bright spot in the loss was Jess Fishlock’s goal in the 86th minute. Fishlock entered the match in the 64th minute along with midfielder Quinn. Both were on national team duty (Wales and Canada, respectively) earlier in the week, but their additions in the game were additions OL Reign’s midfield had been lacking, despite the flashes of what Pretty Cool Stuff that Dzsenifer Marozsán was doing with barely a week of training time with the team.
Typically when Fishlock scores a goal, there isn’t much in the elaborate celebration department. However after this one, she had some moves ready to go.
Fishlock said after the match that her celebration was inspired by and a nod to the FX TV series, Pose, which she and her teammates have been watching.
WHAT WORKED-ISH: FLASHES OF LYON LOANEE’S QUALITY
There was great anticipation as to what the first NWSL starts for Bouhaddi and Marozsán were going to be like. Obviously they and the team would have loved for their first starts to be a victory, but Fishlock after the match emphasized that they need time to get fully settled in. That objective falls on the club’s senior players to get them comfortable so we can see them and the incoming Eugenie Le Sommer in their finest form. That said, Bouhaddi and Marozsán getting the starts today and going full 90, you can see flashes of what they bring to the field. For example, this long pass Marozsán sent to Bethany Balcer.
Can you love a pass?— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 19, 2021
Asking for a friend. pic.twitter.com/uiBvr1UmRC
In stoppage time towards the end of the game, Marozsán tried a long shot from distance. Audacious perhaps, but when you’re a world class player like Marozsán, you can and have scored from distance, and it would have been a massive heist to steal a point away from North Carolina.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: CHASING THE GAME, AGAIN
Alana Cook and Sam Hiatt getting the start may have been a surprise for fans, even if understandable with the team entering a stretch where they have three matches in eight days. Having Kristen McNabb and Dani Weatherholt start ahead of them to try and mask the obvious lack of experience playing together as a unit sure made it an adventure in the midfield as North Carolina had their way throughout the day, moving the ball upfield to build their attack. The scoreline really should have been more an obliteration for OL Reign if North Carolina were able to convert all the chances they were presented. OL Reign’s defense got worked today, as our friends at the indispensable NWSL Analitica tweeted shortly after the match.
OL Reign ends the game with more shots on target (5 against 3), dominated possession during the game (55.8%), but had to work so much more on defense, making 23 clearances against 8 for the Courage.— NWSL Analitica (@NwslAnalitica) June 19, 2021
North Carolina’s first goal came just before halftime as Jess McDonald headed a cross from Merritt Mathias. Bouhaddi timed her attempt to intercept it as best as she could, but it really was just a great cross and a great finish by North Carolina.
Their second goal came after immediately recognizing a player advantage due to Hiatt getting injured. Free space on the left flank of the Reign’s defensive third allowed Lynn Williams to pass to Sam Mewis for what would be the game-deciding goal.
As much as OL Reign have not been able to field their ideal starting XI with any regularity because of injuries, international players coming and going, and new players just arriving, that all needs time to integrate. That said, they are aware that needing time for everything to come together has a finite shelf life and they must start getting victories and moving up the table. Obvious statement is obvious that in order for the team to start claiming the full three points, they must stop chasing the game and conceding first. Be the first to score, add another goal to secure the win as much as it’s important to start claiming some clean sheets. Much like in the game at Gotham FC, they can create some chances — but now they must show they can finish them.
“We have to start performing and we have to start picking up points.”
Fishlock was straight to the point in the post-match press conference about her overall thoughts on today’s loss. Fishlock said it has been disruptive with players coming in and out because of national team duty or just arriving literally last week like the Lyon trio and Alana Cook. And that’s been the question about this team. On paper, this is a super-team, one that can put up a lot of goals if everything clicks. The players and coaching staff are aware of the challenge and even as players continue to come and go because of the Olympics, general roster rotation, and other things, they think they can get that full squad cohesion and everyone is firing on all cylinders.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Reign as they head back home to Cheney Stadium and play again in 72 hours. Next up for OL Reign are the Chicago Red Stars on Tuesday, June 22 with a 7 PM PT kickoff and will be broadcast on Twitch.