Four regular season games to go, and everything to play for. The push to qualify for postseason play continued for OL Reign as they began a gauntlet run of three matches in a week, all on the road. First up on Saturday evening was a stop in Cary, North Carolina to take on the North Carolina Courage. This trip would prove to be historic, as for the first time, OL Reign won at Cary, picking up the full three points and massively boosting their push for the playoffs.
Long time assistant coach Sam Laity was in charge of the squad for this game, as head coach Laura Harvey tested positive for COVID-19 and didn’t travel with the team.
North Carolina opened the scoring when Alana Cook deflected in a Ryan Williams cross for own goal, but OL Reign quickly responded with two goals to claim the lead at halftime, with Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe finding the back of the net.
WHAT WORKED: ROSE LAVELLE’S EQUALIZER
As dangerous as North Carolina has been as of late, there’s been a recurring theme for them in which they will score a goal, and then concede soon after. OL Reign were fortunate to experience that as Rose Lavelle made the most of a second-chance scoring opportunity just four minutes after the Courage took the lead.
WHAT WORKED: MEGAN RAPINOE IS STILL GOOD AT FREE KICKS
We’ve never claimed to be absolute experts on soccer tactics, but deploying a “wall” with holes like Swiss cheese seems like a bad decision against a Megan Rapinoe free kick. Not that we’re complaining, as it gave OL Reign the lead and turned out to be the match-winner.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: LAURA HARVEY HAS COVID
Before the match even kicked off, OL Reign announced that head coach Laura Harvey didn’t travel with the team as she tested positive for COVID-19. It remains to be seen if Harvey will be able to join the team for the remainder of the road trip, as a full recovery is paramount. While she wasn’t there on-site to guide the team, she definitely was watching and cheered on the squad being led by Laity.
OMG get in there! @SamLaity7 is the best there is! So proud of the whole group. I don't know how you guys watch every week. Wooooowoooooowooooowoooo— Laura Harvey (@LH1505) September 18, 2022
Coach, should you come across this recap, here’s hoping for a speedy and full recovery.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: CONCEDING FIRST VIA OWN GOAL
It’s never fun to concede first in general, and to have it be an own goal stings even more. That’s what happened in the 6th minute as a Ryan Williams shot deflected off Alana Cook.
WHAT WORKED: STRESS-INDUCING DEFENSE HOLDS ON
Defending North Carolina’s big three of Debinha, Kerolin, and Dianna Ordóñez is... hard, to put it bluntly. Yet, when OL Reign took the lead after Rapinoe’s goal, the defense and goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce withstood waves of attacks. It was stressful at times for fans watching and definitely wasn’t pretty, but by any means necessary they did what was needed, and it was a big reason why they finally got their first-ever win at North Carolina.
“Our aspirations are a lot higher than just making it into the playoffs.”
OL Reign assistant coach Sam Laity spoke after the game about the importance of the win and of carrying that momentum into the final games of the regular season. “It puts us in a great position for the playoff race. But not only that, not just looking at this game in isolation, but also, you know, this is the first game of a three-game road week and it’s really, really important on a road trip like this that you get off to a good start, because it can really be the catalyst for positive results and positive outcomes.
“It’s so tight in the league at the moment that every single point at this stage is important, and the more points you can pick off of rivals on the better it is, because there’s no doubt about it as a club, we’ve got aspirations about making playoffs. We have aspirations too, about taking the [NWSL] shield.”
With the win OL Reign moves up to fifth in the standings with 31 points, currently two points off the top spot, and puts some extra distance between themselves and the teams chasing them for a playoff spot. There are three games left to go after this one and still everything to play for, so buckle up.
OL Reign get very little time to rest and celebrate their win, as their next stop is at New Jersey on Wednesday, where they will face Gotham FC. In their previous meeting this season at Lumen Field, OL Reign had a decisive 4-1 victory. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 PM PT on Wednesday, September 21. In addition to the match being broadcast on the usual places (Paramount+ for US viewers, Twitch for international viewers) the match will also be broadcast on FOX13+ in the greater Seattle area.