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Five things to watch when OL Reign host Washington Spirit

The Reign look to start a three-game homestand with three points.

NWSL: OL Reign at Washington Spirit Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After getting nine days of rest for what feels like the first time this year, OL Reign kick off a three-game homestand on Sunday, May 22, with a match against the Washington Spirit. The final regular-season meeting for these two sides kicks off at 3 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ (U.S.) and Twitch (international viewers).

OL Reign enter this match with an 0-1-2 record in the regular season, while the Spirit are 1- 1- 1. In their last meeting, which was the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal, the two sides played to a scoreless draw before the Spirit won on an incredible set of penalties that took 10 rounds to decide.

Here are five things to watch for when the Reign host the Spirit.

Reign on the front foot

While the Reign had a tough run the last two weeks, with cross-country travel and back-to-back matches, the Spirit are now in a really tough stretch. They played Angel City last Sunday, faced the Portland Thorns this Wednesday, and after taking on the Reign have a match next Friday in Orlando before two more three-match weeks. What does that mean? The Spirit will need to deploy some rotation on Sunday against the Reign, while the home side has a chance to wear Washington down with a lot of relentless pressure.

The Reign showed they could be relentless last week when they were pushing late against the Thorns, even when Portland was the team with more rest. They hope to bring even more of that fight on Sunday against the Spirit.

“That was something that was pleasing for us that we, one, could commit to that physically of where we were and that we will continue to be a threat up until the last kick of the game,” Laura Harvey said in a pre-match press conference.

Lean into the rivalry

When Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle went on the Attacking Third podcast this week, she was asked if the Reign and Spirit are developing an organic rivalry. The two sides have played close matches that have felt like a chess match the last two years, and are already facing each other for a third time this year.

“It’s definitely been a rivalry in the making,” Lavelle said. “Spirit is obviously a really good team and have some really big threats. It’s been fun and a little bit of a tactical showdown whenever we play them.”

Harvey agreed in the Reign’s pre-match press conference, adding that she gets energy from rivalry matches and hopes the fact that the Spirit have gotten the better of the Reign recently motivates her side.

“I do think there’s an organic rivalry created there that has probably happened over the last year or so. You know, it’s no secret that I love to deal with rivalries, and I will use it to any advantage you can get. But I think the biggest thing is that both teams try and play good, exciting styles of play. Both teams have game-winners in each team, and the games that we play always tend to be close, whether in scoreline or just in how the games end up flowing. And they’ve had the better of it as of late, so I think that’s a driving motivator for us to put that right tomorrow and no better opportunity to do that.”

Finish those chances

OL Reign were the better side against the Spirit in their Challenge Cup semifinal, getting 22 shots off, and eight on goal. They ended with 1.64 expected goals (xG), compared to .71 xG for the Spirit — and that’s ignoring the potential penalty for the Reign at the end of regulation. Still, the Reign didn’t score. They didn’t finish those chances.

They couldn’t find the back of the net again against Portland, although circumstances were slightly different for that game. If the Reign want to keep building momentum and moving up the table — and get three points in this budding rivalry — they need to find the back of the net. As Harvey said, they have players who can be game-changes. Let’s see them step up on Sunday.

Another clean sheet

OL Reign’s backline, along with a couple of brilliant saves from Phallon Tullis-Joyce, did well to keep a dangerous Portland attack out of the net last week. Doing that again on Sunday would be a big statement for the Reign, whose philosophy under Harvey is to be a team that’s hard to beat. While the Spirit have some incredibly talented players, they’ve struggled a little post-Challenge Cup. Limiting their chances will do a lot for the Reign’s confidence.

How can the Reign accomplish that? Win the duels, don’t get into a footrace battle with Washington’s speedy attackers, and stay controlled in possession while building out of the back.

Celebrate Title XI

Like the Sounders did last weekend, OL Reign will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. The first 3,000 fans will receive rally towels courtesy of Gatorade and there will be a halftime celebration announcing a new Rave mini-pitch in Tacoma to support girls’ access to soccer. In addition, match-worn jerseys featuring a special Title IX commemorative patch will be auctioned to support programs that empower girls through soccer.

The Reign are also asking fans to share their own stories about how Title IX changed their lives. Share your own story, or revel in the power of Title IX at the match.

Injury / Availability Report

OL Reign

OUT: None!

Washington Spirit

OUT: Dorian Bailey (cheekbone), Jordan Baggett (concussion), Averie Collins (knee), Tori Huster (SEI - left lower leg), Tara McKeown (foot), Gaby Vincent (calf)

How to Watch

OL Reign’s home match against the Spirit kicks off Sunday, May 22, at 3 PM PT. If you’re looking for last-minute tickets, you can join the Supporters Section for just $15 thanks to this offer from the Reign and Royal Guard Supporters Group. Can’t make it to Lumen Field? The match will stream on Paramount+ (U.S.) and Twitch (Canada/International).

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