After enjoying a weeklong break mandated for all clubs as part of the new NWSL CBA, OL Reign are back in action on Saturday night. They’ll be on the road, taking on Angel City FC at Banc of California Stadium — just a day after the Sounders face LAFC at the same field. The game kicks off at 7:30 PM PT, and for the first time in Reign history, the match will air on local TV. Seattle-area fans can watch on FOX 13+ if they have access to the channel. The game will also stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.
It should be a great crowd, as the expansion club currently leads the league in average attendance — getting more than 19,000 fans per game.
Entering the weekend, OL Reign sit in 6th place with a 4-3-5 record (11 GF, 9 GA). Angel City is in 7th with a 5-4-2 record (10 GF, 11 GA). The Reign are coming off a 1-0 road loss to Kansas City on July 17, while Angel City’s match against North Carolina that weekend was postponed due to a Covid outbreak — meaning they haven’t played a game since July 9.
The two sides have faced off once already this season, a 1-0 Reign win at Lumen Field. The win came with a bit of a price, as Megan Rapinoe picked up a red card — and she’ll be unavailable for this match as a result.
Here are five things to know ahead of Saturday’s match.
Most international players are back!
OL Reign was without eight players for most of July, and the club is likely thrilled to welcome back most of them — except for Rapinoe and Angelina, who is playing in the Copa America final with Brazil. The team should have Quinn, new signing Jordyn Huitema, Rose Lavelle, Alana Cook, Sofia Huerta, and Jimena Lopez available for selection this match.
Angel City, meanwhile, will welcome back starting centerback Vanessa Gilles (Canada) and defender Allyson Swaby (Jamaica).
Two defensively strong teams
OL Reign leads the league in goals conceded per match (0.8), while Angel City is 4th — conceding one goal, on average, per match. The LA club has only conceded multiple goals twice this season, and goalkeeper DiDi Haracic is averaging the lowest number of saves per match. The Reign have earned 6 clean sheets, compared to just 3 for Angel City. Both sides are going to make it tough on their opponents to find quality chances.
Disruptive defense from Angel City
What makes Angel City’s defense so strong? They like to disrupt their opponents wherever possible. Angel City leads the league in just about every defensive category. That includes interceptions and possession won in the final third (OL Reign are second in this category). The LA club is also second in clearances, successful tackles, and fouls per match.
Angel City is also the second most-fouled club in the league — indicating that their high pressure can result in a lot of physical play on both sides. OL Reign might remember this being a common theme from the last match against Angel City. Since this June 18 tweet from data analyst @xGisfornerds, Angel City now has been involved in four of the five matches with the most fouls.
With 29 fouls this is tied for second more fouls in the 2022 #NWSL season, with Red Stars - Reign. On top, with 32, we find Racing Louisville v. Angel City and Angel City v. Kansas City Current.— Tony ⚡ (@xGisfornerds) June 19, 2022
Yep, 3 of the 4 matches so far with more fouls have Angel City involved. pic.twitter.com/SviUvfp1aN
This disruptive approach from Angel City — who also try to slow the game down often — can make it hard for opponents to find any rhythm. Back in June, three of the seven matches with the least amount of minutes with the ball in play involved Angel City, and all three of those matches were at home for the LA club. The Reign will want to dictate the tempo of the game early.
49.37 minutes were actually played between Angel City and Houston. Of the 7 matches with less effective time so far this season in the NWSL, three had Angel City involved, and other three had San Diego.— Tony ⚡ (@xGisfornerds) June 8, 2022
“I think when we played [Angel City] previously at Lumen, when Pinoe got sent off, I think we sort of fell into that trap a little bit in that game actually,” head coach Laura Harvey told media ahead of this game. “But we’ve concentrated a lot on ourselves this week on trying to make sure that we can get back to being who we want to be, because we believe when we do that it doesn’t matter what a team tries to do to stop us.
“I think a big part of Angel City is, honestly when they’re at home, they feed off the crowd a little bit, so I think we have to be prepared for that, and what what that brings and sort of try and taper that down if we can, by getting on top and having momentum early in the game. I think that will help reduce that.”
Watch out for two creative players
Two players create most of Angel City’s chances: Jun Endo, who lines up on the wing, and attacking midfielder Savannah McCaskill. Endo has created 23 chances in 11 games and has one goal and two assists, while McCaskill has created 22 chances (OL Reign’s top player for this stat, Jess Fishlock, is one behind her). McCaskill is the team’s leading scorer as well, with three goals and one assist.
After losing their most dangerous scoring threat in Christen Press, who tore her ACL earlier this season, Angel City has brought on Sydney Leroux and Scottish international Claire Emslie. Both made a big difference in the team’s last match against San Diego — with Emslie scoring the match-winner.
Quick turnaround for OL Reign
OL Reign concludes their three-game road trip on Tuesday, August 2 — just three days after this match — against Racing Louisville. That will require some rotation, but fortunately, head coach Laura Harvey has plenty of options to choose from. In a pre-match press conference, Harvey noted that everyone traveled for their back-to-back road games, but some players may be unavailable for Saturday’s match so they are fresh for Tuesday.
OUT: Megan Rapinoe (red card suspension), Bethany Balcer (illness)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Angelina (BRA)
OUT: Tyler Lussi (red card suspension), Vanessa Gilles (right hip), Sarah Gorden (right knee), Christen Press (SEI, right knee), M.A. Vignola (right hip)
How to Watch
OL Reign kicks off against Angel City at 7:30 PM PT on Saturday, July 30. The match will air on FOX 13+ and stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S. and Twitch for international viewers.