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Five things to know when OL Reign host Kansas City

Expect rotation for the Reign in this mid-week home match.

OL Reign v Kansas City Photo by Amy Kontras/ISI Photos/Getty Images

OL Reign continues their three-game homestand with a Wednesday evening match against the Kansas City Current. The game kicks off at 7 PM PT at Lumen Field and will stream on Paramount+ (U.S.) and Twitch (Canada/international).

With a match last Sunday and another again this Sunday, expect to see plenty of rotation for OL Reign. The same goes for Kansas City, but for different reasons.

The Current are 0-3-1 to start the season and are about to play their fourth road game. After finishing at the top of the Central Division standings in the Challenge Cup, it’s been a rough start to the regular season for the club. In addition to some disappointing results, they’ve had a small outbreak of COVID-19 in the last week on top of injuries to key players. They’ll again deal with these challenges against the Reign, as the Current have six players out and three questionable.

Don’t let the early results or hurdles fool you. Like the Reign, Kansas City has competed in every match. “Even though they may not have got the results that they wanted so far, I think they’ve been in every game. They’ve made it really, really difficult for the opponent to break them down,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said in a pre-match press conference.

Here are five things to know ahead of Wednesday night’s match at Lumen Field.

Strong Challenge Cups, rough regular-season start

Both teams won their divisions in the NWSL Challenge Cup, with the Current going 4-1-1 and OL Reign going 4-0-2 in group-stage play. Now, just like the other two Challenge Cup semi-finalists, the Reign and Current sit toward the bottom of the table in regular-season play after four games. Having to push through the Challenge Cup semi-finals clearly hurt both sides at the start of the season, but they still have plenty of time to right the ship.

Facing the unpredictable

The Current have deployed a range of formations and tactics throughout the Challenge Cup tournament and regular season. They’ve used a 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1. Sometimes, they shoot a lot from distance (they had the highest percentage of shots outside the box in the Challenge Cup). Sometimes, they have more intentional possession (they had 59.6% against Houston). Simply put, good luck scouting this team. That, according to Harvey, is the club’s biggest threat heading into the midweek battle.

“It’s a new team for us this season, and I think they’re probably the most unpredictable team we’ve faced in regards to scouting them,” Harvey said. “They play slightly different in all of their games, so I think just not knowing what we’re going to face is one of the big threats for us. We just have to be prepared for everything really and see what the game gives us at certain times and moments.”

Make Lumen Field another Reign fortress

Through five matches, OL Reign are undefeated at their new home, Lumen Field. As hometown hero Nikki Stanton said in a pre-match press conference, “I’m still so pumped because Lumen Field, that’s where the Seahawks, the Sounders play, so it’s still pretty surreal every time we go into the parking garage. The fans have been so great.”

Harvey takes it a step further, comparing the experience so far at Lumen Field to a place with plenty of memories for Reign fans.

“Honestly, I’ve said this a few times, I just feel like we’re in an upgraded Memorial. And I am the most biased person ever to Memorial. The atmosphere is so similar to me. Obviously, it’s just a very, very updated, modern, bigger version of it. I think the club’s done a good job of creating where people sit, microphones everywhere, etc. All those little things, I think, have made it a really fantastic environment.”

At the same time, to make Lumen a true fortress for opponents, Harvey is eager to fill the stands even more. “I say all the time, it will only stay home if people come watch us play, so we need to get more bums on seats and make sure people keep coming out to watch us.”

Watch their pace up top

Kristen Hamilton, who joined KC last July in a trade with North Carolina, had a standout performance in the Challenge Cup. Hamilton led the team in shots (15) and goals (4) in the tournament and was named to the Team of the Tournament. The forward is speedy and has a knack for getting herself into the best positions in the box. She also can turn quickly to get a shot off in the box — making her also pretty unpredictable in tight spaces.

Rookie forward Elyse Bennett, a WSU graduate, is another threat up top who is making a real statement at the start of her career. Bennett led the Challenge Cup with four assists, and she’s already notched a goal and assist in regular-season play — despite playing limited minutes and dealing with a slight knock. She’s also fast, good in 1-v-1 situations, a strong passer, and can punish you in the air.

Finish those chances — please!

Because their opponent is unpredictable, Harvey is making sure the club focuses on themselves on Wednesday night. A big part of that internal battle will be finishing the many chances they are creating. The Reign lead the league in possession won in the final third and shots per match, and they are second in shots on target per match.

They are also third in the league in expected goals per game (1.58), but the Reign are ninth in the league in goals scored. We will keep repeating it until something changes: They are creating plenty of chances. Now the team needs to convert.

“We’re creating more chances than I think any of my teams have ever created since I’ve coached in this league, so that’s a positive,” Harvey said. “I think now we’ve just got to turn that into goals, and we believe that we can do that. Tomorrow is just another opportunity for us to put that right.”

Availability Report

KC Current

OUT: Chardonnay Curran (Covid Protocol), Chloe Logarzo (right leg), Hailie Mace (Covid protocol), Sam Mewis (right leg), Mallory Weber (SEI – right leg), Lynn Williams (SEI – right leg)

QUESTIONABLE: Izzy Rodriguez (illness), Lo’eau LaBonta (illness), Maddie Nolf (right leg)

OL Reign

OUT: None

How to Watch

OL Reign’s home match against the Kansas City Current kicks off Wednesday, May 25, at 7 PM PT. The game will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.

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