Welcome to the second half of the NWSL regular season! After the league took a week off, OL Reign were back on the field Saturday night, as they traveled down to the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles to take on Angel City FC.
With most international players back from national team duty, a summer blockbuster happened at The Banc. Angel City dominated the first half and took a two-goal lead, but OL Reign did the scoring in highlight reel fashion in the second half to claim a 3-2 victory, their first win on the road in this NWSL regular season. The win also makes it a complete sweep of both the NWSL Challenge Cup and regular season series against Angel City FC.
Cari Roccaro and Savannah McCaskill claimed the goals for Angel City. For OL Reign, Jess Fishlock, Sofia Huerta, and Tobin Heath found the back of the net.
WHAT WORKED: OL REIGN WERE ON AN ACTUAL TV CHANNEL
If you live in the Puget Sound region, hopefully you took advantage of the convenience of the match being on linear TV or met up with friends a local bar and requested the game be put on a TV there. This match marked the first time OL Reign were on local television, and although the FOX 13+ broadcast was just a simulcast of the Twitch stream, all-in-all it looked good. The bottom line is, more of this moving forward and hopefully next season will bring us and all other NWSL clubs a full season where their matches are broadcast on local/regional networks.
WHAT WORKED: ACT 1, THE COMEBACK
Even though they were down two goals, OL Reign were not deterred. Their first goal to cut the deficit in half involved a really nice give-and-go between Jess Fishlock and Tziarra King.
WHAT WORKED: ACT 2, THE EQUALIZER
It’s not often that the sequel is better than the first run, but Sofia Huerta’s equalizing goal in the 64th minute was exactly that, as she hit the shit out of it again.
WHAT WORKED: ACT 3, THE NUTMEG FOR THE WIN
It was as close as you can get to a walk-off win — Tobin Heath opened her goal account with OL Reign in style in the 89th minute.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: CONCEDING FIRST
It is unfortunate that Phallon Tullis-Joyce wasn’t able to recover and stop the second chance shot by Cari Roccaro to open the scoring, but the problem was how Sam Hiatt and Lauren Barnes basically didn’t exist to apply any pressure. Not good.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: WAS IT A PENALTY? YOU DECIDE
OL Reign’s first half didn’t get better as a penalty was awarded that Savannah McCaskill converted in the 28th minute. So was it a penalty? Well...
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: DID HARAČIĆ JUMP EARLY?
To close out the first half, OL Reign were awarded a penalty. Kim Little’s attempt was stopped by Didi Haračić. This near-sideline view the moment Little takes the shot sure can fall in a scenario where, if VAR was available in the NWSL, the call would have been made to the officiating crew that Haračić might have left her line early. The NWSL announced a couple of weeks ago their intention to add VAR for the 2023 season, which obviously does nothing to alleviate tonight, but alas.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: SHOTS, SHOTS, AND MORE SHOTS
It’s been OL Reign’s bugaboo all-season long. They’d shoot and shoot and frustratingly would not find the back of the net. For once, things worked out for them in getting three goals, all the more impressive considering they came in a single half and erased a two-goal deficit, but 25 shots in total, with 12 on target on the night, should yield more results. You hope a game will come where luck is on their side and everything goes in. Perhaps tonight will be the catalyst.
“Here, it’s a party in the best possible way.”
This was OL Reign’s first time playing at Banc of California Stadium and the environment has already established itself as one of the best in the NWSL. OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said of it in her post-match press conference:
“This place? I’ve never been anywhere like it in my life. The atmosphere at this stadium is absolutely phenomenal. I mean, Portland-Seattle, Portland stadium is wild and crazy and football football football. Here it’s party in the best possible way.”
Coming back from a two-goal deficit and then scoring a third to claim the victory is obviously easier said than done. Fishlock provided an insightful comment post-match about where the resiliency comes from and how everyone on the team knows they have a part to play.
“I think it just says a lot about our group, to be honest. I think it says a lot about our mentality, not only as individuals, but kind of as a group. I mean, there’s going to be times where you play 90 minutes or 45 minutes or 60 minutes or whatever, or there’s times when you come in for 10 minutes and you’re going to do a specific job for 10 minutes, it doesn’t really matter. It says a lot about our individuals that we are able to mentally understand kind of what that means and what that takes and not get upset or let ego takeover or do this, because it’s easy to do that.
“Everyone wants to play all the time. Number one, it is impossible in this league to do that. But number two, I think we have a very good understanding and we have a lot of respect for each other to understand what each other can bring to the table and if we didn’t have that respect for each other, then, for sure, there could be some internal fighting or like internal bitching and — referring to women, it’s what we love to do — but with our group, it’s not, because we understand our goal, we understand what we’re trying to do, we’re all on the same page and we all respect and, quite frankly, love and support each other for what they can bring to this group. I think that because we understand that, which is in our culture and what we talk about all the time and how we want our group to be, then we’re okay to do that. Like Tobin comes in, plays 10 minutes, scores a goal, everyone’s up. She’s happy and I’m sure she wants to play longer, but she’s happy right now, she knows where she’s at. Same with Pinoe. Everyone knows exactly what they do and I think that’s what makes it work.”
The win moves OL Reign up to fourth in the standings, pending results around the league in Sunday’s matches.
Turnaround is very short for OL Reign after this match, with the team continuing to live out of their suitcases as they immediately head east to Louisville, Kentucky. OL Reign’s next match will be at Lynn Family Stadium against Racing Louisville FC. Kickoff is scheduled for Tuesday night (yes, you read that correctly) at 5 PM PT. The match can be seen on Paramount+ for US viewers, while international viewers can watch on Twitch.