After a 13-day break in play, OL Reign is back in action on Friday, July 1, when they host the North Carolina Courage at Lumen Field. Their Pride-themed match kicks off at 7 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 3-2-4 record, while North Carolina are 2-4-1, having played two fewer matches than the Reign. Both teams — facing each other for the first time this year — struggled early in the regular season after advancing to the NWSL Challenge Cup playoffs, with the Courage beating the Washington Spirit in the Challenge Cup final. The Reign sit in fifth place on the league table while the Courage are in 12th.
Friday is OL Reign’s Pride match, where there will be a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and what allies can continue to do to support them.
“It’s great to be able to celebrate the queer community, while also, we do the work to support the LGBTQ+ community, the trans community, to make sure that everyone feels included and to make sure that the world knows that there’s still an attack on these people and we need to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to support,” OL Reign forward Tziarra King said about the game and the club’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Here are five other things to know about Friday’s home match.
Absences on both sides
The NWSL is playing through a significant international break, with national teams across the globe competing in important competitions. As a result, both squads will play just a little differently than they have in previous matches.
OL Reign will have the most absences — Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, Rose Lavelle, and Megan Rapinoe are all with the U.S. Women’s National Team for the Concacaf W Championship, which serves as the 2023 World Cup qualifier. Quinn and new Reign forward Jordyn Huitema will be with Canada, and Jimena López will be representing Mexico in the same tournament. Angelina is with Brazil for Copa América Feminina.
“For me, I’m glad that we have this period to be able to give other people opportunities because I do truly believe that it is an opportunity,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said about the necessary rotation they’ll have on Friday and over the next few matches.
North Carolina will be without a few key players as well. Challenge Cup MVP Debinha, who is their playmaker in the midfield, is also with Brazil for Copa América. They are also missing USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy, talented rookie forward Diana Ordoñez (Mexico), and Havana Solaun (Jamaica).
A number of Courage players also just returned from international duty, and their minutes could be limited due to the long travel back home. Katie Bowen just played with New Zealand, Denise O’Sullivan was with Ireland, Kerolin just returned from playing with Brazil, Brianna Pinto was with the U.S. U-23 squad, and Carson Pickett made her U.S. Women’s National Team debut this week before returning to her club team.
OL Reign just added two players
Knowing this international break would steal a number of players away, OL Reign prepared themselves well. On top of a deep roster, USWNT forward Tobin Heath arrived with the club on Monday, and midfielder Kim Little returned to the Reign — on loan from Arsenal — on Thursday. While it will be a quick turnaround for Little, Harvey said both players will be available for selection for Friday’s match.
It seems more likely that neither player starts against the Courage, but they sure are fantastic options to have on the bench. And over the longer term, both will be helping the young players continue to grow.
“I think bringing in Tobin and Kim in this period, who have experience of what it takes to be successful in this league, can only help the other players to be able to do the bit that they need to do as well,” Harvey said. “That mixture of the young players that we have and the older players that we have coming in, together, to push through these three games, I think it’s going to be vital.”
“If Tobin’s on the field, she’s a threat every time she touches the ball,” Courage head coach Sean Nahas said when asked how his team is preparing for the addition of Heath and Little. In the same sentence, however, he acknowledged that — given the vast number of international call-ups — most teams have no idea how their opponents will line up this week.
North Carolina is a possession-heavy team
The Courage lead the league in possession, averaging 56.7% and 371 accurate passes per match — compared to 321 for the Reign (third in the league). North Carolina relies on their backline and holding midfielders for this ball management. Centerbacks Abby Erceg and Kaleigh Kurtz average 67 and 45 passes per match, respectively, with left back Carson Pickett averaging 52. Holding midfielder Denise O’Sullivan averages 42 and right back Merritt Mathias averages 32.
On the other hand, OL Reign lead the league in possession won in the final third. If they can pressure the Courage as they try to build from the back, they should have some critical transition moments.
Different goal-scoring patterns
OL Reign is in a bit of a goal-scoring rut, but it’s certainly not because they aren’t creating chances. The Reign are second in the league in shots on target per match (5.4) but are 11th in the league in goals per match (0.8). The Courage have the opposite pattern. They are second in the league in goals per match (1.7) but 11th in the league in shots on target per match (3.6).
While the Courage may not get as many shots off on Friday, the Reign will have to make sure they’re not able to convert at a similar rate. They can do this by limiting quality shots in and around the box. On the other side, can this be the first match in ages where the Reign are finally able to convert their chances? The Courage are conceding 1.7 goals per match — 11th in the league — so if previous patterns are any indication, now would be the time for the Reign to pounce.
The Courage are strong on the road
OL Reign remains undefeated at Lumen Field and have gone 3-0-2 at home in the regular season. In going against the trend a little, however, the Courage have been really strong on the road. This can be a sign of the fight they have to get results, even when matches aren’t in their favor. They are 2-1-1 away from North Carolina and are riding a three-game unbeaten run in road matches. The Reign will certainly want to put a stop to that on Friday.
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Angelina (BRA), Alana Cook (USA), Sofia Huerta (USA), Jordyn Huitema (CAN), Rose Lavelle (USA), Jimena Lopez (MEX), Quinn (CAN), Megan Rapinoe (USA)
OUT: KiKi Pickett (right knee), Valerie Gauvin (left knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Abby Erceg (right knee)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Debinha (BRA), Casey Murphy (USA), Diana Ordoñez (MEX), Havana Solaun (JAM)
How to Watch
OL Reign’s match against the North Carolina Courage kicks off at 7 PM PT on Friday, July 1. Tickets are still available for the Lumen Field match, and fans can also watch on Paramount+ (U.S.) and Twitch (international).