After picking up 7 points in their three-game homestand, OL Reign kick off a three-game road series on Sunday when they take on the Kansas City Current. Their road match at Children’s Mercy Park kicks off at 4 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.
Entering the weekend, OL Reign sit in 4th place with a 4-2-5 record (11 GF, 8 GA). Kansas City is in 7th with a 4-4-3 record (11 GF, 14 GA).
The two sides have faced off once already this season, a 1-0 OL Reign win at Lumen Field. The Reign dominated that match, earning 1.89 xG compared to .35 for KC. But the Reign have yet to win on the road, going 0-2-2 so far.
According to OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey, the team has — knock on wood — all cleared Covid protocols ahead of the game. It sounds like the team has no new injuries to report either, although we won’t know until the official availability report is released on Saturday evening.
Here are five things to know ahead of Sunday’s match.
Two teams in good form
OL Reign head into the match with a four-game undefeated streak. The KC Current, however, have a six-game undefeated streak (4-0-2). KC also has 14 points in their last six matches, good for the best record in the league over that span. The Reign are not too far behind with 11 points across their last six games.
NWSL Form Table - July 10 (points in last six matches)— Chris Henderson (@chris_awk) July 11, 2022
14 - KC
12 - CHI, POR
11 - RGN
9 - SD, GFC
8 - AC, NC
7 - HOU
5 - ORL
2 - LOU, WSH
Two strong goalkeepers
OL Reign’s Phallon Tullis-Joyce leads the league in saves, with 41. Just one save behind her is KC Current goalkeeper A.D. Franch, who earned NWSL Player of the Week honors last week for a number of crucial saves — including on a stoppage-time penalty (KC has given up five penalties this year). Both keepers are outperforming their expected goals against (xGA) totals as well. It’s going to be tough to get anything by either Franch or Tullis-Joyce.
Limited international absences for KC
While OL Reign continues to be without eight players due to international call-ups, Kansas City has been able to keep a consistent lineup during this long set of games overlapping with international play. Just two Current players — Sydney Schneider (Jamaica) and Desiree Scott (Canada) — are gone, with Scott being the only KC starter. The lineup consistency has been a big reason KC have built some positive momentum in the last month.
After experimenting with formations and tactical approaches earlier this season, the Current look to have landed on a 3-5-2 formation — at least to start matches. But one thing that KC seems to pride themselves on this season is their tactical flexibility, which makes them very unpredictable.
Against the Washington Spirit last week, they started in that 3-5-2 formation and then switched to a completely different formation at halftime. They were rewarded with the lone goal in the match, which CeCe Kizer scored in the 68th minute. The Current added Kizer last month in a trade with Racing Louisville, and she already has two goals and one assist in just four games for KC.
Their wingbacks have also switched sides during a match to create more favorable match-ups, something they did the week prior against Houston. This makes them a really hard team to defend for 90 minutes. It also makes their pass maps a mess.
Sit back and transition
Much of KC’s success has come from their work without the ball to make it hard for teams to break them down. Kansas City doesn’t deploy a high press to win the ball. In fact, KC is last in the league in possession won in the final third. They also don’t out-possess teams. Again, KC is at the bottom of the league in this category as well.
Instead, the Current put numbers behind the ball to defend, then they look to quickly counter. For KC, 44% of their passes are forward compared to just 39% for OL Reign. This works pretty well for them, as the Current are third in the league in big chances created (18). They’re converting their chances at a much better rate than the Reign — scoring 11 goals in 77 shots, compared to 11 goals off 124 shots for OL Reign.
“I think they worked really hard to not let teams get in behind them, and when we played them at Lumen that was really difficult for us early in the game, but as the game got stretched and the game went on, we managed to find that opportunity,” Harvey said in a pre-match press conference.
Bethany Balcer gets OL Reign their first goal in their last 312 minutes played!— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) May 26, 2022
Will this be the winner tonight? pic.twitter.com/w8xiecY8bS
Kansas City has two speedy attackers — Kristen Hamilton and Elyse Bennett — who they target with long balls behind defenses or balls on the ground across the goal from wide areas. Combined, the two players have eight goals and assists. They don’t rely a ton on crosses to get their forwards in dangerous spots, but KC still likes to cause a lot of chaos in the box, especially on set pieces. OL Reign’s defense is going to need to be careful about how high of a line they set and the space KC’s forwards like to run into.
“It’s definitely something that will need to be aware of, just knowing the space that they’re going to be trying to get into and then do our best to nullify that and not let them get in behind or get up ahead of steam coming down the middle either,” defender Sam Hiatt shared.
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: Chloe Logarzo (right leg), Sam Mewis (right leg), Mallory Weber (SEI – right leg), Lynn Williams (SEI – right leg)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Sydney Schneider (JAM), Desiree Scott (CAN)
How to Watch
OL Reign kicks off against the Kansas City Current at 4 PM PT on Sunday, July 17. The match will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.