After picking up a vital three points at North Carolina for the first time last Saturday, OL Reign were back on the field for their second match of a three-match gauntlet run, this time at Red Bull Arena to take on Gotham FC.
With head coach Laura Harvey back on the sideline after missing last Saturday due to COVID-19, OL Reign maintained their momentum with a 1-0 victory over Gotham FC.
Megan Rapinoe claimed her sixth goal on the season with a converted penalty in the 58th minute.
WHAT WORKED: LAURA HARVEY WAS BACK
Harvey missed last Saturday’s match at North Carolina after testing positive for COVID-19. It was nice to see her back on the sideline (and at times, sitting on top of her cooler) to coach the team.
WHAT WORKED: IMPACT SUBS RESULT IN IMMEDIATE GOAL
Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe entered the match in the 56th minute and their impact was instantaneous. Fishlock won a penalty for OL Reign a minute later, after Ali Krieger took her down in the box, and one of the guarantees in life is that Megan Rapinoe will take and convert the penalty.
WHAT WORKED: A CLEAN SHEET
It’s been a while since they had one, but OL Reign did in fact log a clean sheet tonight, their first since July 1 back when they hosted North Carolina. It wasn’t as chaotic as last Saturday in North Carolina, but the defensive effort was solid — including stopping Midge Purce who look determined to put Gotham on her back.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: A QUIET, LACKLUSTER FIRST HALF
Credit to Gotham for being organized, calm and sticking to their plan to keep OL Reign off the scoreboard for the first half. While OL Reign weren’t playing with their optimal starting lineup because of the short turnaround between matches, they still had enough star power on the field that you would have expected them to push the game more than they did. Rose Lavelle wasn’t involved much with the attack until she took a free kick in the 43rd minute and logged a shot on goal a few moments later.
“We know we have the ability to win games.”
Wins don’t always have to be/can’t always be pretty and with this victory and last Saturday’s win at North Carolina, OL Reign have shown they can grind out a win. Harvey talked about a recent mentality shift within the club who have NWSL Championship ambitions.
“This group had a choice to make after the Houston game at home of: what team are we going to be? Are we going to be this team that plays great football, creates a ton of chances, but doesn’t quite get there? There was a chance that we just weren’t going to get into the playoffs, right? I’m not sure it’s like mathematically 100% certain that we will [qualify] now, but I think we will. I feel like something changed in the group that week [after the loss to Houston] where there was a real mentality shift, I would say.
We know that we’re good. We know that we are talented. We know that we have the ability to win games, because we’ve been doing it. We’ve been creating so many chances in games and not punishing teams. And you know, you could have that as your story, right? ‘They didn’t make it because they couldn’t finish our chances.’ Snce then we’ve sort of turned into a different team a little bit and Saturday was a really good indicator of that. I thought to go to [North] Carolina and win was a huge statement. And I said earlier, and I’ve said it all week to the players, I think today’s was as important a win, because I feel like it would be easy for us to take our foot off the gas, and now it sets us up for another important one on Saturday.”
The win puts OL Reign at 34 points and elevates them into third place at the end of the evening. While the rest of the top six is very much CHAOS (capital letters intended), OL Reign put themselves in a better position, and qualifying for the NWSL Playoffs feels inevitable at this point. OL Reign need two more points from their final two games (or for Angel City and North Carolina to drop any points) in order to secure their ticket for the postseason.
Next up for OL Reign to close out this three-match week is a trip down to Texas for their final road match of the regular season, against the Houston Dash. Houston took the first meeting back on August 7 at Lumen Field, which Harvey and the players said was a catalyst for a mindset shift that has pushed them to get results lately. Kickoff for OL Reign at Houston Dash is scheduled for Saturday, September 24 at 4:30 PM PT. Both US and international viewers can watch this game on Twitch.