OL Reign’s third match this week took them to Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky for the very first time as they faced Racing Louisville FC. The match ended in a 1-1 draw on goals by Nadia Nadim and a late equalizer by Bethany Balcer, who now leads the NWSL with 8 goals this season.
WHAT WORKED: THE PLAY OUT WIDE
OL Reign started Tziarra King, Rose Lavelle, Eugenie Le Sommer, Dzsenifer Marozsan, and Balcer in attack, with Harvey electing to start Sofia Huerta at right back for the third straight match. Huerta was active in joining the attack early, with Lavelle and King joining her in dominating the right side. Many attempts were made to attack on runs from the right toward the box, and then King, Huerta and Lavelle started sending in crosses from the right side. None of them ended in a goal, but that play was open for much of the first half.
WHAT WORKED: THE BACKLINE
Much was made at the beginning of the season about OL Reign’s issues along the back line. The team acquired a lot of attacking talent through trades and loans, but not much defensive talent. The addition of Alana Cook may prove to be the best pickup of the season, as the young centerback continues to grow every week, now under the guidance of Laura Harvey. Harvey stated a few weeks back that Cook could be one of the best CBs in the world given enough time, and she is certainly starting to become that by being a steady force for OL Reign. Additionally, captain Lauren Barnes made some amazing defense plays to cut off the attacks of Ebony Salmon and Cheyna Matthews this match. Barnes may be the true unsung hero of this match.
WHAT WORKED: CROSSES IN, SORT OF
OL Reign spent much of the first half and parts of the second half sending in crosses out wide, or passes over the Racing back line, into the box for Balcer and Le Sommer. None of those crosses, particularly crosses from Huerta, found their target, but they were mostly great ideas from a team that looked tired. These crosses freed up Lavelle to make more direct runs in the second half, where she took several shots on goal. Unfortunately, none went in, and Lavelle is still looking for her first goal with OL Reign. However, the crosses and interplay that came out of them between Huerta and Lavelle may be the start of something very special for Coach Laura Harvey and this team.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: HOLES IN THE MIDDLE
Nadia Nadim’s goal in the 24th minute came after several minutes of Louisville attacking OL Reign centrally. Tonight, Harvey elected to rest Jess Fishlock and Quinn, and it cost the team some defense and physicality in the middle. There was a distinct point early in the match when Nadim and Savannah McCaskill realized they could exploit the middle and hit the Reign on the counter. A few moments earlier, a play from the center of the park sprung Emily Fox on the counter, and her shot required a very good save by Sarah Bouhaddi. To Louisville’s credit, they pressured up the middle and Nadim made a run and a great individual effort to get that shot on goal against Bouhaddi. The Reign defense did seem to hold on after that, and looked much more settled in the second half.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: WAS THE DRAGON, MBE REALLY OFFSIDE?
Fishlock looked to have scored the match-winning goal, but the assistant referee raised the flag and ruled her offside. Obviously OL Reign felt after the match that was the incorrect goal and unfortunately this camera angle is all that’s available. It definitely one that makes you wonder.
Jess Fishlock tweeted after #LOUvRGN that her goal was not offside. In the post match presser Laura Harvey also said she has seen multiple videos and it should've been the game winner.— Bella Valeriano Munson (@munson_bella) September 5, 2021
Here is the goal that was called off. Bad angle but looks like Jess held her run really well. pic.twitter.com/mGnTzAgWHw
“YOU’RE GOING TO GET SEVEN POINTS IN THREE GAMES, I WOULD’VE TAKEN THEM”
This stretch of three matches in a week for OL Reign was always going to be the toughest run for the club, with two of them on the road. Wednesday, they played at Houston, Texas. Tonight, they were in Louisville, Kentucky. Yet amazingly out of the possible nine points, they could have grabbed, OL Reign picked up seven. In her post-match press conference, Harvey was appreciative of the points the club picked up, as well as no serious injuries from so many matches, even if tonight’s 1-1 draw could have been, perhaps been a win if Fishlock’s goal wasn’t waived off to a questionable offside call.
“I think if you’d said to me before we kicked the ball against Portland that you’re going to get 7 points in the next 3 games, I would’ve taken them...But I think we come away from this game disappointed that we haven’t gotten 3, and I think that says where we’re at honestly,” was Harvey’s overall assessment about tonight’s draw and in context of playing three matches across three states this week.
“That’s definitely a mentality on our end, so it’s easy to change, and then, you know, just being clean on the ball, and making sure that we’re connecting passes, or that we’re playing a dangerous ball or looking forward as much as you possibly can.” - OL Reign defender Lauren Barnes on their 2nd half improvement.
Next up, OL Reign are scheduled to wrap up their two-week road trip with a visit to Audi Field next Sunday to face the Washington Spirit. However with the developing story of the Spirit’s game tonight at Portland Thorns FC being postponed due to positive COVID tests within the Spirit organization, the status of that game is uncertain at this time. The health and safety of the Washington Spirit players, coaches, and staff is the first priority. Then comes rescheduling their match at Portland, and any other impacts to their schedule.
If next Sunday’s match proceeds as scheduled, it will kick off at 2 PM PT. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ for US viewers while international viewers can watch on Twitch.