After spending 10 days on the road, OL Reign returns to Cheney Stadium on Saturday for their first-ever match against expansion club Racing Louisville. The game kicks off July 31 at 7 PM PT and will stream exclusively on the NWSL Twitch channel (NWSLOfficial).
OL Reign comes into the weekend with a record of 4-6-1 (13 points), while Louisville has 11 points with a 3-5-2 record. With a game in hand, they sit right behind the Reign in 8th place.
Here are three things we’ll be watching in this match.
Racing Louisville is unbeaten when they score first this season, winning three games and recording one draw. They are 0-5-0, however, when conceding the first goal. With OL Reign playing at home, scoring first and getting the crowd into the match should help push them through for the full 90 minutes — something they’ve struggled to do at Cheney Stadium.
In fact, OL Reign have only scored first at home two times this season — against Chicago and Kansas City, which are the club’s only wins at home.
There’s not much more to say here. Just score first. Please.
(And if Eugenie Le Sommer can finally convert one of her seemingly endless chances, look out.)
Keep mastering the press
Both of OL Reign’s goals against Orlando were the result of pressure in their offensive half that forced the Pride into mistakes. It’s something the team has been trying to master as the season has progressed, but OL Reign interim head coach Sam Laity still knows that the team can do even better to spot those moments to apply pressure.
“We have to sense when the opponent is in trouble, and then we have to go to the next level again. When the opponents in trouble when they’re on the ropes, that’s the time when we’ve really got to kick it into another gear and really take advantage of that opportunity where there’s some anxiety and a massive shift in momentum. Recognizing the tactical triggers but also recognizing the psychological effect of us putting the opponent under pressure and taking advantage of those moments.”
Laity saw more of it in the second half against Orlando but wants to see his players recognize those triggers earlier in the game. If they can, they might pressure Louisville into mistakes similar to the ones they made last week against Washington. In the 5th minute, Louisville midfielder Freya Olofsson was put under pressure and lost the ball near half. With some quick transitional play from Washington, Ashley Hatch got a shot off and around Racing goalkeeper Michelle Betos.
Becoming a weekly thing for @ash_hatch33 #LOUvWAS | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #NWSL21 pic.twitter.com/LtoLqJuwRF— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 25, 2021
Look out for Ebony Salmon
Racing’s new forward Ebony Salmon has played just 360 minutes in the NWSL after joining the club in June from Bristol City, but the 20-year-old striker is already making a name for herself in the league, scoring 3 goals in that time. This was her first goal scored after coming in just seconds prior — a combination of skill and audacity to chop that ball into the box.
71' - NWSL debut— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) June 20, 2021
71' - First NWSL goal
Go off, @ebony_salmon pic.twitter.com/21PmNcyUyq
Salmon isn’t the only goal-scoring threat, but she can do a lot with a little. Louisville, in fact, has taken the fewest shots in the league with 65, which is 6.5 per game compared to 12 for OL Reign. But you don’t always need to take a lot of shots to score — and Racing has a 10.8% shots-to-goal conversion rate compared to 7.6% for the Reign.
OL Reign will want to make sure that when Salmon and Racing’s other forwards — which now includes Nadia Nadim — get the ball, they aren’t able to turn and get dangerous shots off. That will mean a lot of disruption in the midfield, as a lot of Racing’s playmaking comes through Savannah McCaskill and Yuki Nagasato. The club doesn’t rely on crosses often, instead looking to play through both players in the middle of the field.
If OL Reign can clog those channels, they should be able to control this game and find some momentum.
Injury Report / International Absences
OUT: Ally Watt (right knee), Rosie White (illness), Nicole Momiki (LOAN)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Angelina (BRA), Rose Lavelle (USA), Quinn (CAN), Megan Rapinoe (USA)
OUT: Addisyn Merrick (left ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: Emina Ekic (illness), Freja Olofsson (right foot), Katie McClure (right foot)
How to Watch
The match kicks off Saturday, July 31, at 7 PM PT and will stream exclusively on Twitch (NWSLOfficial).