After a 1-1 draw to kick off the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup with their Cascadia rivals Portland, OL Reign hit the road to California to have their first meeting with new kid on the block, Angel City FC. Goals from Veronica Latsko, Alana Cook, and Angelina gave OL Reign their first win in the this year’s pre-season tournament, with a major moment in the match being a straight red card issued to Angel City’s Savannah McCaskill in the 31st minute.
WHAT WORKED: PHALLON TULLIS-JOYCE APPRECIATION SOCIETY
To quote our Ride of the Valkyries colleague, Sylvia Bullock, “You can’t teach 6’1”!” Tullis-Joyce’s range was tested early in the first half as she made three big saves that could have set the tone of the match and make OL Reign chase the game. Tullis-Joyce was active for OL Reign throughout the entire afternoon, and while she did concede one goal, there was far more positive impact with her six saves and a strong performance that put her in contention for player of the match.
WHAT WORKED: TWO GOALS IN FIVE MINUTES
While Tullis-Joyce came up big in goal, OL Reign’s response after her first two saves was as good as you can get, with two goals scored in a five-minute span. The first saw forward Veronica Latsko score her first goal for OL Reign in the 12th minute...
...and then defender Alana Cook opened her account in the 17th minute.
WHAT WORKED: LA STANDS FOR LATSKO TO ANGELINA
Angelina got the assist on Cook’s goal, and she would enjoy her own flowers by getting her first OL Reign goal in the 50th minute after sliding in to connect on a cross from Latsko. Not a bad day in the office when you have a pair of players collecting a goal and an assist.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: BEND BUT DON’T BREAK DEFENSE
Perhaps with Tullis-Joyce being called into duty early into the match was an ominous sign for OL Reign, as despite the two first-half goals and player advantage for the majority of the match, Angel City FC kept testing the defense. The halftime insertion of Simone Charley for Angel City FC was the spark the LA side needed. It paid off in the 67th minute when a combination play between her and Jasmyne Spencer set up Tyler Lussi to get a goal back for Angel City.
“The girls were saying there were only three positives today — the goals, and I reminded them there was another. Phallon.”
Three goals and a win is going to be the headline, but OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said in her post-match remarks that she was frustrated that the team didn’t take advantage of the McCaskill red card. No doubt Tullis-Joyce being called into early involvement with two saves before OL Reign claimed their first goal will be a point of emphasis on maintaining focus. The bend, but don’t break defense hurt OL Reign in the second half and was a reminder that no lead is ever truly safe. This is why these games are being played, though, to see what needs to be cleaned up before the regular season starts.
With her goal and assist today, early indicators are that forward Veronica Latsko is settling in quite well as one of the new faces at OL Reign. Here’s what she said post-match.
“I’m learning so much every day, it’s really exciting. It’s the amount of opportunities that I have to learn and ask questions and the number of people that are willing to share their knowledge about the game and different aspects of the game, it’s incredible. I’m so grateful to be in this environment because I feel like I'm growing exponentially as a player, and in addition to that, the players and coaches give you the confidence to be on the field and that’s a huge part of the game. It’s hard to have growth without that aspect of it, and this team is so supportive and so wonderful, I’m really grateful.”
The win puts OL Reign at the top of the West division standings for at least a few hours. San Diego Wave FC and Portland Thorns FC meet later tonight to have a say in the standings. And speaking of Portland, OL Reign remain out on the road for their next Challenge Cup, heading to the Rose City for a rematch of their opener. OL Reign will meet their rivals next Saturday, April 2 in Providence Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM PT; the game will be broadcast on Paramount+ for those in the US, while international viewers can watch on Twitch.