It’s the first regular-season meeting between OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC, and given the date on the calendar, we can call it Cascadia the 13th. And wouldn’t you know it, something strange happened right from the start as a live event of professional bull riding overran on CBS Sports Network, causing most fans to miss out on the first 20 minutes of the match.
On the field, however, despite having played a very congested schedule to start off 2022, OL Reign were still able to play up to the occasion of another meeting with the rivals, weather spells of attack at their door, and put some threats on Portland’s goal. All told it was a scoreless draw on this Cascadia the 13th evening.
WHAT WORKED: PHALLON TULLIS-JOYCE
Over the course of the club’s history, there have been some good goalkeepers to come through. Phallon Tullis-Joyce is already a fan favorite and tonight only added to that, as she made some thrilling saves to keep Portland out of the goal.
And a lucky break from the woodwork here.
As much as the NWSL Save of the Week honor is a popularity contest, Tullis-Joyce winning them is no fluke. She is the real deal and people will only continue to realize this.
WHAT WORKED: DEFENSE HOLDS IT DOWN
In their last regular-season match, the Thorns scored three goals against Kansas City and had 10 shots on target in the first half, the most ever in league history. Given the schedule OL Reign have played compared to Portland having two weeks off before tonight’s match, it would have been understandable to think/fear OL Reign would be vulnerable to Portland’s attack. And they were, during a notable spell in the first half, where Portland kept knocking on the door and OL Reign just couldn’t clear the ball past midfield or into the tenth row of the stands. Yet the defense and Tullis-Joyce held on. Toward the end of the match, with fatigue well set in for everyone coupled with the weather, a simple lapse on defense could have made for a late match-winner benefitting Portland. Again, the defense and Tullis-Joyce held on to keep it a clean sheet.
WHAT WORKED: BB8’S FIDDY
A simple recognition and congratulations to forward Bethany Balcer on reaching the half-century mark in NWSL regular-season appearances with her start tonight. “Fifty appearances for this club is something she should be really proud of,” said OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey at her post-match press conference. Harvey also praised Balcer’s evolution in improving her back-to-goal and link-up play, while noting the team needs to get her in better goal-scoring opportunities. “In the last couple of games she played, I think her back-to-goal play has been very, very good.”
Proud of this group tonight .. schedule has been extremely unforgiving & it’s never easy playing at Portland .. let alone chronic fatigue V extreme freshness.— Jessica Fishlock MBE (@JessFishlock) May 14, 2022
Thought we did a great job and showed great mentality.
Also huge congrats to @bethanybalcer for 50 games with us
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: LIVE TV IS HARD AND FRUSTRATING
Independent of team performance, most fans that planned to tune into CBS Sports Network at the scheduled broadcast time of 7:30 PM did not get soccer. Instead, it was a live broadcast of a professional bull riding tournament. And it wasn’t until 20 minutes into the match being played that the TV feed actually switched to the match.
Scheduling live events back to back is tricky and no network is immune to overruns. It’s understandable that fans were not happy having to wait through the end of another live event that is of no interest to them. And that the live stream alternate that’s offered on the CBS Sports website didn’t work for a lot of people. Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things that’s out of the NWSL’s control under their existing broadcast deal. Everyone knows the many issues that have plagued NWSL broadcasts since the league’s first year.
All of this just reinforces how important NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman and the other powers that be of the NWSL must get the next broadcast deal correct in terms of money the league gets, the production resources they can utilize, and general accessibility for everyone from new fans to day-one devotees.
“Everyone uses this as motivation.”
Appearances can be deceiving and you’d think midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt has been with the club for years when, yes, she is a rookie. Van der Jagt has already made an impact through her appearances in the NWSL Challenge Cup, and tonight with it being her first start in a Reign vs. Thorns rivalry match. She mentioned in the post-game press conference that she’s watched the matches, but to experience it as a player is another level. “It’s such a fight. It takes everything. Super proud of how we fought and the team and the effort that we gave.”
To the praise of her teammate and Reign Original Megan Rapinoe, she did her part in the midfield with Jess Fishlock and Quinn. Rapinoe and Harvey praised Van der Jagt’s ability to just slide in and hold her own.
For Van der Jagt, getting these minutes in part because of the congested schedule that they’ve played is providing her that experience. She described the challenges this early into their year as fueling everyone to keep focus and make the chemistry with each other all that better. You wonder if every new/young player can find their place and hang on a squad as loaded with internationals as OL Reign, and it looks like we’re seeing that with Van der Jagt.
OL Reign will have a full nine days until their next match to rest up, and they’re going to need it. While they will be at home for the next three matches, it will be three matches across eight days, and it starts with the reigning NWSL Champions, Washington Spirit.
OL Reign will host Washington Spirit on Sunday, May 22 at Lumen Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 PM PT and will be broadcast on Paramount+, while international viewers can watch on Twitch.