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Five things to know when OL Reign host Angel City

Saturday’s battle features two teams close on the NWSL table

MikeRussellFoto / Sounder at Heart

After a week filled with a big signing and transfer rumors, OL Reign are hoping to make a statement on the field when they host Angel City FC for the first time this regular season. The Lumen Field match kicks off at 7 PM PT and will stream exclusively on Twitch for fans in the U.S. and abroad.

OL Reign enters the match with a 2-2-4 record and has scored six goals while allowing six. The club sits sixth in the league standings. Angel City is in fourth with a 4-3-1 record and has scored seven goals while conceding eight.

While this is the first time they are facing off in the regular season, OL Reign and Angel City went up against each other twice in the Challenge Cup, with the Reign coming out victorious in both matches. OL Reign won 3-1 on the road and 2-1 at home thanks to a last-second Olivia Van der Jagt goal.

After a two-game road trip, OL Reign are back at Lumen Field and hoping to pick up some crucial points in front of home fans. “We’re obviously looking forward to being back at home, and I think it’s a huge opportunity for us to put in a good performance at home and get a result that we need,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey told reporters ahead of the match.

In addition to the Seattle Sounders hosting LAFC at 12 PM PT on Saturday, the Seattle Mariners will be holding a double-header — at 1:10 PM and 7:10 PM PT — against the Los Angeles Angels. That means Seattle sports teams have a chance to earn four wins against LA clubs on Saturday. It also means transportation to the stadium could be a little tricky, so get planning and arrive early.

Here are five things to know before the Reign’s home match against Angel City.

No Kim Little :(

Harvey confirmed in a pre-match press conference that Kim Little is still dealing with visa issues and will be unavailable on Saturday. Fans will have to wait a little longer to see her in the Reign’s midfield, sadly. The good news? There are still players like Rose Lavelle, Jess Fishlock, and Angelina who can create from the midfield. OL Reign certainly aren’t hurting for quality players in the middle of the pitch.

Not much midfield rotation at Angel City

Angel City starts a consistent midfield, with a lot of these players being asked to go 90 minutes each match. Attacking midfielder Savannah McCaskill — their leading goal-scorer with two goals — has played 709 out of a possible 720 minutes. Box-to-box midfielder Cari Roccaro has gone 652 minutes, starting every match. Holding midfielder Dani Weatherholt has played 512 minutes, only getting held out of two matches due to an ankle injury (she played virtually every minute in the Challenge Cup). Clarisse Le Bihan stepped into the midfield for those games.

This consistency has allowed the midfield to gain a strong understanding of one another. McCaskill is asked to get on the ball a lot — she leads the team in touches per game — and create chances. She has created 18 chances in eight games, just two behind teammate Endo. Roccaro shares defensive duties with Weatherholt, who Reign fans will remember works incredibly hard on the defensive end. Roccaro is often the one getting forward more into the attack between the two of them, and both try to help the team keep possession — often opting for simpler passes to ensure Angel City keeps the ball.

It also means that very few players have been given a chance to get meaningful minutes in case they are called upon. It could also mean the Reign have a pretty clear picture of how those three players work together — giving them equally clear ideas of to break Angel City down in the midfield.

Tough injuries for Angel City

After starting the season with injuries to two key defenders — Sarah Gorden and Paige Nielsen — Angel City is now feeling the loss of two other critical starters. Forward Christen Press will be out for the rest of the season after suffering an ACL tear in her last match, while Jasmyne Spencer, who had been stellar at right back early in the season, is also out for at least a few more weeks with a knee injury.

Press had two goals and one assist for Angel City before her injury and was seventh in the league in shots. In her absence, forward Jun Endo — a young, creative playmaker from Japan — will be asked to take on a much bigger role. Simone Charley, who hasn’t scored yet in the regular season, will also be looking to get on the scoresheet.

Centerback Vanessa Gilles — who was named to the NWSL May Team of the Month — was also out last week for Angel City due to a hip injury. The LA club gave up two goals in her absence. Her status remained unknown until the league availability report came out late Friday night. She's available for Saturday.

While Angel City has had a more predictable starting XI in the regular season, these injuries give them a little more unpredictability for Saturday’s match against the Reign. And as Harvey noted, even with a consistent lineup, Angel City has tactical flexibility that makes them unpredictable within a match.

“Angel City have a little bit of unpredictability in that they can play in multiple different ways within that system. You know, credit to them. I think they’ve done a great job up to now,”

A steady defense, but a lot of shots conceded

After conceding 13 goals in six Challenge Cup matches, Angel City has a much more organized defense in the regular season. They are averaging only one goal conceded per match. One big reason has been the steady centerback partnership of Gilles and Megan Reid, who has been especially impressive after getting limited professional opportunities since graduating college in 2017.

While Angel City is in the middle of the league in their goals-against average, they are allowing the third-highest number of shots per match (13). OL Reign shouldn’t have any problems creating shots, but will again be looking to finish more chances on Saturday. The Reign still are only scoring .75 goals per game compared to their expected goal total of 1.45.

Two teams that like to pressure up top

OL Reign and Angel City lead the league in possessions won in the final third, averaging 8.9 per match. Wide players for Angel City — Endo and Press — lead their team in this category, an indication that the club likes to push opponents wide and then apply pressure. Lavelle, Tziarra King, Bethany Balcer, and Veronica Latsko lead this category for the Reign, with Fishlock just behind this group. For the Reign, a lot of that pressure comes more toward the center of the pitch and in the midfield — in addition to wide areas.

Quick Stats

  • OL Reign and Angel City have the top three players in the league in chances created: Endo (20), McCaskill (18) and Sofia Huerta (17)
  • Huerta has 27 career assists, three away from tying the all-time NWSL assist record
  • OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce leads the league in save percentage (83.8%) compared to 66.7% for Angel City goalkeeper DiDi Haracic
  • Angel City has taken the most corner kicks (56) so far this season

Injury / Availability Report

OL Reign

OUT: None!

Angel City

OUT: Sarah Gorden (right knee), Christen Press (SEI - right knee), Jasmyne Spencer (left knee), M.A. Vignola (right hip)

How to Watch

OL Reign kicks off against Angel City on Saturday, June 18, at 7 PM PT. The match will stream on Twitch (search NWSLOfficial) for all fans.

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