If you want to show fight against Portland, have OL Reign do it.
OL Reign hosted Cascadia rivals Portland Thorns FC on Sunday at Lumen Field. With both teams missing impact players due to international duty, OL Reign still had the likes of Jess Fishlock, Phallon Tullis-Joyce, and Kim Little on hand.
It was a chaotic Cascadia classic between the two sides. Two goals in the span of 56 seconds, a back-breaker go-ahead goal by the rivals, and a dramatic equalizer by OL Reign resulted in a 2-2 draw.
Midfielders Marley Canales and Olivia Athens got their first professional starts for OL Reign today, with Athens also claiming her first professional goal.
WHAT WORKED: RESPONDING IN 56 SECONDS
OL Reign conceded first, but they responded faster than most people put in a Starbucks order. In the 12th minute, defender Phoebe McClernon was attempting to clear a loose ball in the box with a pass back to goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce, but she tripped and the slowest, saddest own goal happened. Right from the restart, Olivia Athens in her first NWSL start equalized for OL Reign. Total match time between the first and second goal was 56 seconds, putting the latest edition of Cascadia already chaotic.
WHAT WORKED: ATHENS & CANALES FIRST STARTS
Due to the circumstance of the team dealing with a COVID outbreak and eight players away from the team on international duty, Athens and Canales got the start, and the midfield duo put in a 63-minute shift. The highlight of course was Athens’ goal to equalize after the own-goal blunder, but in totality, both put in a solid shift.
“Obviously Liv [nickname for Olivia Athens] getting the goal, we know she’s got quality [that] we see in training every day. She’s been biding her time, training really hard, so glad she got the reward for effort,” said OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey after the match in assessing their shifts. “Marley, the same. Marley’s attitude in training is phenomenal. Both of them are always in the top five best trainers of that day, so really glad they could get an opportunity to go out on the field and show everybody how good they are. Really proud of both of them and they’ve got a bright future, both of them,” said Harvey in her post-game press conference.
WHAT WORKED: 9,032
More of this moving forward, everyone.
At their last home match hosting North Carolina on July 1, OL Reign set a new standalone attendance record of 7,519. That record only stood for a week as the attendance on Sunday blew it out of the water. 9,032 were on hand.
More of this, Seattle and the greater Puget Sound region.
WHAT WORKED: NEVER GIVING UP
Portland’s second goal in the 60th minute felt like a backbreaker, but OL Reign did not give up. Veronica Latsko entered the match in the 63rd minute and instantly provided energy. She sent the cross into the box that found Bethany Balcer for the equalizing goal in the 81st minute.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THE OWN GOAL
This definitely will not be on OL Reign’s end-of-season highlight reel.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: PORTLAND’S SECOND GOAL
On one hand, great cross by Portland’s Meghan Klingenberg to find Hina Suita at the back post for the point-blank finish to take the lead in the 60th minute. On the other hand, a painful learning lesson for Sinclaire Miramontez as she lost Sugita. Even before the ball was played by Klingenberg, Miramontez gave the slightest of head checks to see where Sugita was and we can only guess it was a misjudgment on her part. No doubt when the team reviews the two goals they conceded, this will be one of those points of emphasis.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THIS GAME WAS ON TWITCH
Even before the match kicked off, it was disappointing that one of the league’s marquee matches and rivalries was not part of CBS’s national broadcast schedule. Nor was it on Paramount+, the go-to streaming service for the NWSL. It was on Twitch.
In all fairness to Twitch, they have as much right to ask for some showcase games as part of their broadcast agreement with the league, which primarily serves non-US viewers along with a featured game streaming in the US most weeks. That said, it would have been nice if the NWSL had advocated for this match to be on at least CBS Sports Network, the cable network.
Figuring out broadcast schedules is hard, everyone understands this. However, as the regular season shapes out and you’re seeing clubs make moves to strengthen their rosters and climb the standings, storylines are starting to take shape and some teams are becoming must-see TV.
The NWSL’s existing broadcast deal, with how very few matches will be on linear TV, continues to age poorly and reinforces just how important it is for Commissioner Jessica Berman to get the league’s the next broadcast deal right. The NWSL is very much a league that can still benefit greatly by being accessed simply by turning on one’s television to channel whatever and there is your local NWSL team.
There’s a time for a conversation much larger than in a game recap to address this topic, but unless you were in the stands at Lumen Field or endured watching it on a streaming platform on your computer or mobile device, you missed out on quite a thriller, and even if you were trying to watch at home, the Twitch stream was broken for a lot of viewers.
How's your Sunday going? pic.twitter.com/lIPL0qp38t— Shea Butter Football Club (@SBFC_Podcast) July 10, 2022
“It’s been a week.”
When the league availability report was released Saturday evening, we got confirmation of what Harvey had alluded to in the pre-match press conference earlier in the day, that the club has been going through some things. Specifically COVID.
Postgame, Harvey elaborated further. “We’ve had a few players tested positive for COVID and not been able to be involved today. We had players who right after the North Carolina game tested positive, and then came out of the testing protocol, but it was very, very last minute.
And we’re still not out of it. We’re still in a position where we’ve got it, we’re dealing with it, obviously with the players that weren’t available today and yeah, it’s just been a week, I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve done video [coaching/breakdown] in a lot of different ways in my career, and this week probably takes the biscuit.”
Such is the reality of the world we’ve been in since 2020 — some people are going to catch COVID even if they’re taking precautions. We can only hope that OL Reign players, coaches, and staff get a full and proper recovery.
The draw keeps OL Reign fourth in the standings, one point behind Portland after the rest of the results around the NWSL. While they’re matched on points, OL Reign are above Angel City FC in the standings as OL Reign currently have the head-to-head advantage over them.
This ends OL Reign’s three-match homestand, as they become road warriors for the rest of the month. OL Reign’s next match sees them go to Kansas City to meet the Kansas City Current at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday, July 17. The match is scheduled for a 4 PM PT kickoff and will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the US, while international viewers can watch on streaming platform Twitch.