Three goals, six yellow cards, and a three-minute span in which OL Reign fell apart, conceding two goals resulted in their first loss at home, 1-2 to Houston.
Megan Rapinoe claimed her first goal in 2022 for OL Reign in the 16th minute. For Houston, Ebony Salmon scored both goals.
WHAT WORKED: GIVE THE BALL TO PINOE
Rapinoe made her third start in 2022 for OL Reign and the first half felt very much like a throwback to her being the impact player that she still can be on any given day. Give her the ball and just watch cool stuff happen. Her goal in the 16th minute was very much the hallmark of what she can do.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: DEFENSIVE LAPSES = TWO GOALS CONCEDED
A forgettable three minute span for OL Reign first saw a bad defensive giveaway lead to scrambling in the box and Quinn committing a handball foul. This set up Ebony Salmon to convert the penalty to tie the game. Then two minutes later, Salmon claimed her second goal as OL Reign were basically caught sleeping. Not a good sequence of events for everyone wearing an OL Reign shirt.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THE DANIELLE CHESKY EXPERIENCE
Parallel to OL Reign falling apart in the three-minute span was the game going through the full Danielle Chesky experience. Jess Fishlock went down in the box in the 57th minute and despite loud appeals, no penalty awarded to OL Reign by Chesky. If conceding two goals in a three minute span had shellshocked OL Reign, the frustration only grew when calls weren’t going their way according to Chesky. The calls, or lack thereof, were not why OL Reign lost, but as much as the quality of officiating has been a talking point in the NWSL for years now, it can feel like salt in the wound.
“It’s also difficult when your player gets in behind their backline and taken out and no penalty is given. It’s hard to finish when you’ve got no feet on the ground,” said OL Reign coach Laura Harvey post-game about when Fishlock went down in the box in the 57th minute.
“This is a hard one to sit with.”
After the match, Megan Rapinoe talked about how the club had a good start in the first half, but losing focus and getting punished by Houston is something you cannot do in this league.
“We felt good in the first half, felt like we had all the control, but again, there’s still a lot more in it that we weren’t going to get and I think that’s a little bit of what Kim [Little]’s talking about. It’s just like a little bit of a lack of focus and discipline to take all that the game has to offer and then obviously when you switch off like that, you’re going to get punished in this league every single time by every single team. It’s not even a question and particularly by Houston, so it’s incredibly just disappointing and frustrating and this is a hard one to sit with, obviously.”
“We’ve conceded five goals in three games and that’s not good enough.”
Laura Harvey has belabored the lack of finishing in recent weeks, but equally troubling is conceding goals by what should be a rock-solid defensive team.
“We can talk about the finishing as much as we want, but the goals we conceded today aren’t goals that we expect to concede as a team. It makes it way easier for us if we take our chances on the other end. But, I think from today’s game, different to the LA and the Louisville game, I think we have to look at the way we conceded the goals today.”
“The people here are really special and every time I come, that fills my heart.”
It was obviously not the ideal way to go out for her final game with OL Reign, but midfielder Kim Little had nothing but praise about her second stint with the club.
“It obviously was incredible to come back this summer, and I have such special memories from playing here for the Reign with (forward Megan Rapinoe) Pinoe and, especially (defender Lauren Barnes) Lu and (midfielder) Jess (Fishlock) and it was great to be back with the team. Honestly, a lot of the time it felt like old times. The team we’ve got here is unbelievable and the result today doesn’t show that. This team has way more than that and I’m just a bit sad we can’t build on that. But, that was the decision I made at the time and I have no doubt the team will go on to be successful this season and will score goals because we create chances every game and we just need to tidy up on the small details of focus, which in those three minutes today, determined the outcome of the game. But yeah, I have no doubt this team will be successful come the end of the season. I’ll be watching and supporting them from London. I had the best time. The people here are really special and every time I come, that fills my heart. So, yeah, ending on a loss, but heart is still the same.”
The loss drops OL Reign to sixth in the standings, three points ahead of seventh-position Angel City FC.
Next up for OL Reign is another home match, this time hosting Gotham FC. Much like today’s meeting with Houston, this will also be OL Reign’s first meeting in 2022 with Gotham. The match is scheduled for Sunday, August 14 with a noon PT kickoff. US viewers can watch on Paramount+ while international viewers can watch on Twitch.