It’s been 13 days since OL Reign last hit the field, with a win over Angel City FC. Laura Harvey’s squad was back at it tonight at Lumen Field, hosting the North Carolina Courage.
Despite only arriving yesterday, midfielder Kim Little made her long-awaited return to OL Reign by starting Friday’s match and playing the first half. And in front of a new record attendance for a standalone OL Reign match of 7,519, OL Reign cruised to a 2-0 victory over the Courage, courtesy of Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer setting each other up for goals.
WHAT WORKED: KIM LITTLE REALLY IS HERE
Even if it was just for the first half, 45 minutes of Kim Little playing for the Reign once again is still a fun 45 minutes. The highlight was a link with Jess Fishlock in the 39th minute, with Fishlock putting in Reign’s best effort in the first half, but it was met with an even bigger effort by North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland.
.@rowland_katelyn is on a ROLL!@TheNCCourage | #CourageUnitesUS pic.twitter.com/isrqNlwOhD— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 2, 2022
WHAT WORKED: THE DANCING DRAGON
OL Reign opened the scoring in the 52nd minute, thanks to this great pass from Bethany Balcer to the dancing dragon Jess Fishlock, who put on a little juke move on Rowland. Just sit back and enjoy.
JESSICA. FISHLOCK @JessFishlock | @OLReign pic.twitter.com/eE1v2RX5AD— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 2, 2022
WHAT WORKED: BB-8 KEEPS ON SCORING
Perhaps it was just written in the stars that after Balcer set up Fishlock on the first goal, the favor would be returned for OL Reign’s second. Again, just sit back and enjoy the passing slickness.
B-E-A-Utiful ball movement leading to a @bethanybalcer goal @OLReign | #BoldTogether pic.twitter.com/Nm90rzQMdT— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) July 2, 2022
WHAT (kinda) DIDN’T WORK: KEROLIN WAS ALMOST A PROBLEM
North Carolina forward Kerolin has been a problem for opposing defenses all season in the NWSL, and she was the biggest threat to OL Reign’s defense and goal in the first half. While she did make the defenders and goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce work, the Reign were taken to the limit of bend but don’t break. On another day, Kerolin could have had OL Reign’s number, yet the threat from her was mostly confined to the first half, after which the Reign defense adjusted and essentially removed her from being a factor in the game.
“It was for the gays today.”
Jess Fishlock reminisced about her goal and the significance of it coming during the team’s annual Pride game. “To be honest, it just feels good to score if you’re like haven’t scored since like 2010,” she told the media post-game. “It’s always good to score, even better, you know, it was for the gays today. But the most important thing is that we win; not only that we win, but we try and win the in the way that we want. We always know that these games are so hard, that you can’t play the way you want to play for 90 minutes. That’s just not realistic, but there was definitely parts of our game today which showed glimpses of what we’re trying to do. Whether we have the eight players that we’re missing or we have the group that we have now. So it’s still important to stay true to who we are and I think there was times we did that today, but in all honesty we needed to win. And we did, so that’s all I really care about.”
The win puts OL Reign currently fourth in the standings with 16 points, and they remain undefeated at Lumen Field. Next up for OL Reign is hosting their Cascadia rival, Portland Thorns FC on Sunday, July 10. The match will be broadcast on streaming site Twitch for both US and international viewers, with kickoff scheduled for 3 PM PT.