OL Reign began a three-game road trip on Sunday afternoon with a visit to the Kansas City Current. Lo’eau LaBonta scored the lone goal of the game in the 18th minute off a penalty kick, which was won by Victoria Pickett on a foul by Reign defender Phoebe McClernon. Both sides had several golden opportunities to add more goals, but a combination of strong goalkeeping and questionable finishing meant the game ended 1-0 for the home side.
WHAT WORKED: WELCOME TO OL REIGN, TOBIN HEATH AND RYANNE BROWN!
It wasn’t a mirage the past few weeks — Tobin Heath is indeed an OL Reign player. She made her club debut in the 77th minute, replacing Jess Fishlock, and almost immediately made a difference in the attack with some nice passing to set up an opportunity for Ally Watt, along with strong set-piece service on corners. Head coach Laura Harvey said the team was being cautious about easing Heath into games because she was coming off an injury and extended time off, but given the contribution she was able to make in a very limited role today, Heath is likely to get a longer run-out next game.
Also making her debut in the 88th minute was defender Ryanne Brown, a rookie out of Wake Forest who was signed as a National Team Replacement Player while OL Reign are without eight players on national team duty. Congratulations to both players on their Reign debuts.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: GETTING BURNED ON TRANSITION PLAYS
OL Reign’s high press absolutely stifled Kansas City in the first 15 minutes of the game, keeping the Current pinned back in their own end and earning the Reign several good looks on goal. After that, however, KC realized they could play past the press with long balls and quick transitional play. Numerous times they sprung attacks that way, and Phallon Tullis-Joyce and the Reign defense had to come up big with several stops after scrambles. Unfortunately, the defense got caught out in the 18th minute, with Phoebe McClernon fouling Victoria Pickett in the box and giving up a penalty kick, which Lo’eau LaBonta buried for the game’s lone goal. If not for some questionable finishing, the Current could have had several more goals through similar transition plays.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: FINISHING
AD Franch was once again a brick wall for Kansas City, standing up tall and making several key saves to keep the clean sheet. OL Reign’s best opportunity came late in the first half, when Bethany Balcer had Franch beat, but her shot rang off the post and bounced clear of goal. The Reign finished with 18 shots, but only managed to get four of those on frame, and whipped in nearly three times as many crosses as KC (35 to 12) but struggled to get heads onto them. This game was reminiscent of some of their matches early in the season where they had a lot of good ideas in build-up but lacked a lethal final touch.
“We’ve got to get back to [being] hard to beat.”
“I think we played a good side today. I think they exposed our back line well, but I think we pride ourselves on being relentless and hard to beat, and I think we kind of have to find our way back to that place,” defender Lauren Barnes said in her post-match remarks. “We’ve just kind of got to get back to what we know and what we believe in and be hard to beat. I think we’ve given up some cheap goals in my eyes and I think we can be better on that side, but yeah, I’m always proud of this team and we’ve just got to move forward.”
With the result, OL Reign falls to sixth place with 17 points, one point behind both Houston and Kansas City. The NWSL now takes a week off before international players return from national team duties. OL Reign’s next game is on Saturday, July 30 at 7:30 PM PT in Los Angeles against Angel City FC, one day after the Sounders visit LAFC at the same venue. That match will stream on Paramount+ for U.S. viewers and on Twitch internationally.