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Five things to know when OL Reign face San Diego

The Reign hope to bounce back on the road.

MikeRussellFoto / Sounder at Heart

After a disappointing road trip to Chicago last week, OL Reign will be looking for some redemption on Sunday when they take on the San Diego Wave. This road match at Torero Stadium kicks off at 2 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.

OL Reign enters the match with a 2-2-3 record and has scored five goals while letting in five. San Diego is 4-2-2, having played one more match, and has scored 12 goals while conceding seven.

The two sides have already faced off three times this year, twice in the Challenge Cup and once in the regular season. OL Reign beat the Wave two weeks ago at Lumen Field and earned a home win and road draw against the expansion side in the Challenge Cup.

“Each time that we’ve played each other, there’s been different sorts of tactical elements of the game that have been slightly different for both teams,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said ahead of the match. “I think our most dominant performance against them was probably the last game.”

Here are five things to know before the Reign’s road match against San Diego.

Less rest for San Diego

While the Reign haven’t had a match since last Saturday, San Diego played a mid-week battle against the Portland Thorns. In that game, San Diego scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to come from behind and earn a draw.

While San Diego will be the less rested side, they’ll have the energy of this comeback draw to carry them into the weekend. The Reign, meanwhile, will be hungry for a much better performance than they put on last weekend. That match against Chicago was not the first time the Reign were held scoreless, but it was the first time they didn’t create many chances — which makes it feel more like an outlier at this point.

A tough place to play

San Diego is undefeated in the regular season at Torero Stadium, their home field until September. The stadium is housed at the University of San Diego, with stands similar to Memorial Stadium where it feels like fans are sitting right over the field. It also has a lot of wear and tear, which can make it difficult to play a more composed game.

NJ/NY Gotham FC v San Diego Wave FC Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

“It’s a difficult place to play at, I would say,” Harvey said in a pre-match press conference, carefully choosing her words to not be too critical. “It’s very enclosed, so the fan base are effective there. It has a lot of games on that field, which doesn’t help them probably as much as the away team. And the walk to the locker room is long.”

OL Reign will need to rise above any of those conditions and just focus on playing their game: winning duels, disrupting higher up the pitch, and finishing the chances they create.

Two organized teams

Both the Reign and San Diego pride themselves on being tough to break down. That’s evident in their low expected goals (xG) against averages. Both sides are the top two in this category, with the Reign averaging .96 xG goals against and Wave averaging .95.

Their last match was a defensive battle, with the Reign winning out in this category at Lumen Field. OL Reign showed their defensive chops in that match, holding the Wave scoreless and giving them their lowest xG total this season. Can they repeat that defensive performance on the road?

The defensive commitment translates to the offensive end as well. The Reign and San Diego are the top two in the league in expected goals (xG) scored. The Wave average 1.89 xG per match, while the Reign average 1.49 xG. One reason for San Diego’s high number is the four penalty goals they’ve scored, but they create plenty of chances and love to get touches in the box. While San Diego is closer to matching their xG — with 1.5 goals per match — the Reign are scoring half of their expected total (.7 goals scored per game).

“Hopefully, the floodgates will start opening, because we’ve obviously been very good in that area, and so we just want to see the scoreline reflect that,” forward Bethany Balcer said in a pre-match press conference, reflecting on the many chances the team has created. “I think, at least for our attacking six players of how we can put the ball in the back of the net, because I feel like once that starts happening so it’ll be really hard to stop.”

A midfield battle

While Rose Lavelle was the lone player who found the back of the net in the first Reign-Wave regular-season battle, San Diego has a midfield difference-maker of their own. According to American Soccer Analysis data, Taylor Kornieck, who scored the Wave’s two goals against Portland earlier this week, sits right behind Lavelle in goals added per match (among players with more than 300 regular-season minutes). They are both top five in the league in this metric, with the Reign’s Lavelle averaging .23 per match compared to .21 for Kornieck.

Goals added (g+) measures a player’s total on-ball contribution in attack and defense. It looks at how well players dribble, pass, receive, shoot, and interrupt. Both midfielders score well across all categories, pointing to their ability to press on the defensive side and create and finish goal-scoring chances.

However, at 6’1”, Kornieck presents a slightly different challenge to Lavelle, who is more of a difference-maker on the dribble and in space. Kornieck is a great disruptor who likes to find Alex Morgan in particular in transition with quick balls over the top or through defenses. She also gets on the end of set pieces and crosses into the box.

Kim Little hasn’t arrived in the U.S. yet, which means that creativity will fall on Lavelle this Sunday. Can she put in another world-class performance?

Two teams that like to pressure

OL Reign lead the league in possession won in the final third and tackles won per match, while San Diego is third in the league in fouls per match — an indication of the high pressure they put on opponents to try to disrupt and win the ball back.

In their last match-up, according to inStat data, San Diego lost the ball 30 times in their own half compared to 18 times for the Reign. That same ruthless energy will come in handy against an organized Wave side this Sunday.

Quick Stats

  • OL Reign haven’t allowed a goal in the final 15 minutes of a match this season, while the Wave have scored six goals in the final 15 minutes of their eight games — their most productive 15 minutes per game.
  • Sofia Huerta has 27 career assists, making her one away from tying the all-time NWSL assist record.
  • The two teams had a combined seven players named to the NWSL Best XI for May.

Injury / Availability Report

OL Reign

OUT: None!

San Diego

OUT: Abby Dahlkemper (ribs)

How to Watch

OL Reign kicks off against the San Diego Wave on Sunday, June 12, at 2 PM PT. The match will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers (search NWSLOfficial).

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