The calendar might say March, but anytime OL Reign and Portland Thorns meet on the field, it lives up to the intensity of the Cascadia rivalry. Goals and bookings were on display in front of 7,343 fans at Lumen Field for OL Reign’s first match in 2022 at their new home stadium, which finished in a 1-1 draw. Sofia Huerta scored the lone goal for OL Reign, while Christine Sinclair claimed Portland’s goal.
WHAT WORKED: SOFIA HUERTA
OL Reign fans only had to wait 19 minutes into the match to get their first goal of 2022 at Lumen Field, and it was a banger.
WHAT WORKED: 7,343
People turned out impressively for the first Challenge Cup (read: semi-preseason) match. It looked like a good crowd, it sounded like a good crowd, and by all accounts from those in the stands, it felt like a full house. It’s a promising start for the club in their new home, and gives hope that as the regular season starts and the weather heads into that beautiful Seattle summer, the current maximum capacity of 10,000 just might be stretched and need an extra section or two at Lumen Field opened up.
Regarding the attendance, which stands as the third-highest single match attendance in club history, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said, “I was telling Sam (Laity, assistant coach) that this was like Memorial (Stadium), with a little bit of an upgrade on the facility.” OL Reign still have a ways to go from recreating Fortress Memorial in terms of an impressive home record there, but a turnout like that for their first home match of 2022 was quite the impression. Seattle showed up.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: PREVENTING PORTLAND’S SECOND CHANCE
OL Reign will rue conceding the equalizing goal in general, but particularly the fact it came from a second chance opportunity for Portland. Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tulis-Joyce did well to stop the first attack from Sophia Smith, but the back line wasn’t able to clear out the ball and Christine Sinclair was able pounce on it and slot it past Tulis-Joyce’s left in the 28th minute.
“I just hit the shit out of it to be honest.”
That’s what Sofia Huerta said about her goal in the 19th minute.
Jess Fishlock summarized tonight’s performance by saying there were a “lot of positives to take from the game — some of our buildup play and possession was brilliant. I’m super excited to see where we can take that. Where I think that we’re still working on is the final third. What does that look like? Can we be a bit more ruthless in that area? But that’s probably the area where we’ve worked least at the moment.” Fishlock talked about how there was a lot of positives in tonight’s match based on what the team has been able to work on at training, even if it’s had a start-stop nature - the team gathered for training camp, then international players were off with their respective national teams, and then reunite for the pre-season tournament in Portland.
Harvey echoed the overall positive takeaway in her post-match press conference. Harvey also said her two substitutions were based on the flow of the game, wanting to get players having a full 90 minutes in, while also of note, subbing in midfielder Rose Lavelle in the 75th minute to get her back into the groove from the ankle injury she picked up at SheBelieves Cup.
Next for OL Reign in the Challenge Cup is a trip down to California, where they’ll meet one of the league’s new teams on the block, Angel City FC. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at 1 PM. The match will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the US, while international viewers can watch on Twitch. Their next home match will be on April 14.