OL Reign players and staff are eager to start a streak of wins on Sunday with a home match against Kansas City. The game kicks off Sunday, July 11, at 4 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.
The Reign enter the match on a two-game losing streak and a 2-5-1 record. While Kansas City sit at the bottom of the table with a 0-6-3 record, they’re also heading to Tacoma with a little momentum after Mariana Larroquette scored a banger in the 83rd-minute to equalize against Gotham FC last weekend.
Both teams will be without a number of international players, who are in or on their way to Japan for the Olympic tournament.
After a difficult week that included a loss to Houston and Farid Benstiti’s resignation, OL Reign had their first full week of training with all their key starters for the first time in a while. It was a week focused on individual improvement, which interim head coach Sam Laity hoped would translate into a complete team performance for 90 minutes.
“The overall objective – to get us where we want to be this season and in the future – has to be about performances, and the performances start with individuals,” Laity said in a pre-match press conference. “So the focus for the staff and the players this week has been individual performances, individual improvement, that will collectively enhance the performance and the opportunities for success, not just in the next game, but in future games.”
So how can we expect this work to translate on the field against Kansas City? Here are three things we’ll be watching.
KC’s direct play and narrow frontline
There are two things you should know about Kansas City. First, they play vertical and direct, sending long balls to their forwards. Second, one of those forwards is Amy Rodriguez, who makes some of the smartest runs in the game. She’s just so sneaky — making perfectly timed runs between the center backs and into the box.
The Reign will have to do three things well: pressure Kansas City’s backline to prevent these long balls, win the second ball when KC opts to go long, and be organized defensively to stop KC from sneaking behind.
As you’ll see from the below passing charts from a few recent Kansas City games, they often bypass the midfield in their buildup. Their centerbacks also play fairly far apart while their frontline stays narrow up top. This may give the Reign’s outside backs some better opportunities to get involved in the attack and find that pocket of space between KC’s centerbacks.
And after struggling to contain Jasmyne Spencer at Houston, OL Reign’s Celia has the opportunity to put in a strong shift this week and get back to the form we saw from her in the Challenge Cup — prior to her hamstring injury at the start of the regular season — where she was a lockdown defender and chance creator on the other end of the field.
It’s not actually about KC
The collective theme from the Reign’s pre-match press conference wasn’t really about preparing for Kansas City — although they did spend time discussing how they can break KC down. That’s because this match isn’t about KC. It’s all about the Reign putting in a complete performance.
“I think you’ll just see such a collective performance this weekend, which I’m really excited about,” said forward Bethany Balcer. “It’s been fun to see the interchange between all the layers we have – and we have so much talent on this team. So I think this whole week has just been focusing on us and the things we need to improve, because as Sam said it’s individual performances and the collective performance, and we haven’t been able to put one of those together for a full 90. And I think that is what our goal is moving into the weekend.”
Laity agreed. “I’m a firm believer — and I think the players here are as well — that if we can solve the problems internally, then we have a much greater chance of being successful and putting a product on the field that we’re proud of and one that is going to be successful.”
A focus on mentality
For Laity, it will be important to see the Reign players able to read the state of the game and adapt accordingly — something they’ve struggled to do consistently this year. And that translates on the field to the mentality to make the best of every possible game-changing moment.
“That’s another thing that we’ve been talking about this week. It’s about mentality – recognizing that there are moments in every game that have the opportunity to change it, whether it’s a tackle clearing off the line or maybe it’s the 1-v-1 opportunity that you have in the first minute or the last minute. So just recognizing that we’ve been having very good moments, but what we haven’t been doing is making that moment successful.”
The tactics and style the Reign want to play won’t change much this week. They believe in the principles they started with at the beginning of the season. What should change is each player’s intensity. And that shift could feel monumental, as there have been times when it felt like the Reign took their foot of the gas and were perhaps overthinking things too much. Laity expects this to change on Sunday.
“Ultimately, it’s the players that are going to change the tactics. Obviously, we come up with a strategy and idea of what we want to do, but it’s the individual players that really execute tactics. And if we can be better individually, then we have a chance of being successful. So tactically, not a great deal to change, but from a mentality and intensity perspective, I expect to see a change in that — especially when playing at home.”
Injury Report / Absences
OUT: Ally Watt (right knee), Rosie White (illness)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Nicole Momiki (JPN), Rose Lavelle (USA), Megan Rapinoe (USA), Quinn (CAN), Angelina (BRA)
OUT: Elizabeth Ball (right thigh), Darian Jenkins (left thigh), Taylor Leach (left foot), Maddie Nolf (left foot), Arielle Ship (right lower leg-SEI), Abby Smith (right thigh)
QUESTIONABLE: Rachel Corsie (left knee), Michelle Maemone (illness)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Katie Bowen (NZL), Chloe Logarzo (AUS), Desiree Scott (CAN)
How to Watch
The match kicks off at Cheney Stadium on Sunday, July 11, at 4 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.