OL Reign continue their push for the playoffs on Saturday, September 24, when they close out their three-game road trip with a match against the Houston Dash. The game kicks off at 5:30 PM PT and will stream exclusively on Twitch.
OL Reign enters the match in third place with a 9-4-7 record (27 goals for, 19 against). The Houston Dash are just one point behind them in fourth and are 9-5-6 (33 goals for, 24 against). Due to how tight the playoff race is this year, neither team has clinched a playoff spot yet, with just one match remaining after this weekend. But the Reign could book a postseason ticket with a draw or a win.
Here are 5 things to know about Saturday’s match:
More rest for Houston
OL Reign are heading to Houston with little recovery time, as they faced Gotham FC on the road this Wednesday. The Dash will be the more rested side, as they didn’t have a mid-week match. Their last game was a 1-0 road win in Chicago on Saturday.
Final match of the road trip
It’s never easy to travel across the country for one road match. It’s even harder to have three road matches in a week at the end of the regular season. That’s exactly what OL Reign had to do. They got results in two hot, muggy places: North Carolina and New Jersey. Now, they hope to close out their road trip by picking up points in Houston. They’ll have some tired legs and the forecast is for another hot evening, so the Reign will need to be smart about managing the tempo of the game.
Redemption for the Reign
In their August home match against the Dash, OL Reign fell asleep for three minutes — and Houston punished them with two goals, earning a 2-1 road win. That didn’t sit right with the Reign, and head coach Laura Harvey said it was a real mentality reset for the club. OL Reign have been on a good run of form since that match, going 4-0-1 since the loss.
“When we played these guys at home, we had a three-minute blip where we let them in the game. It was a big turning point for us, I think, in how we reviewed what happened in that game and just mentality-wise what we know we needed to change,” Harvey noted. “So, I think we’re just excited to one, get after the game tomorrow and two, for this crazy, long road trip to come to an end.”
A high press and high defensive line
Mid-season, the Dash brought in a new interim head coach, Juan Carlos Amoros. The team’s defense has evolved under Amoros, to positive results. A team that once defended deep and looked to disrupt and transition now presses higher up the field and plays an organized, high line. They are still able to be a threat in transition offensively, but are now doing it from a higher spot on the field — just like they did against the Reign, when Ebony Salmon scored twice. Salmon now has 9 goals in 11 matches for the Dash.
TWO MINUTES, TWO GOALS!— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) August 7, 2022
Ebony Salmon's brace gives Houston the lead. pic.twitter.com/FLYkuEWJCy
“I think that they’ve become a high-pressing team, which is probably the biggest change, which I wouldn’t say took people by surprise, but it just changed the dynamic of what you thought you were coming up against when you play Houston,” Harvey said ahead of the match. “I think they’ll come after us, especially with the fact that they didn’t have a midweek game and we did.”
That high line has also worked out in their favor defensively. As The Equalizer points out in a new article, “Houston generated 11 offsides in their first 11 games of this season. Since Amoros took charge, Houston has generated 51 offsides in nine games.”
At the same time, if OL Reign times their runs right, and plays balls over the top when appropriate, they could punish Houston’s backline.
“We do love to get on the ball but maybe if it means that we do have to go long a little bit or we do have to look in behind for the first half or the first minutes of the game, then that might be what we require, and just winning first and second balls, getting on the end of things when we need to,” Reign midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt said in the pre-match press conference.
Spread the love
Megan Rapinoe has been on a tear for OL Reign lately, scoring five of the Reign’s last 11 goals. Dash coach Juan Carlos Amoros said in his pre-match press conference that stopping Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, and Jess Fishlock from getting on the ball would be a top priority. While those three have been heavily involved in the club’s most recent goals, the Reign still have plenty of scoring threats. If this trio attracts extra defenders, can they find players like Bethany Balcer, Jordyn Huitema, and Tziarra King in space?
Injury / Availability Report
OUT: Angelina (SEI- right knee), Tobin Heath (SEI- left knee), Sinclaire Miramontez (SEI- right foot), Jodi Ulkekul (SEI- right knee), Jimena Lopez (Covid protocol)
OUT: Ella Dederick (right knee), Makamae Gomera-Stevens (left knee), Kelcie Hedge (SEI- right knee), Ebony Salmon (Covid protocol), Annika Schmidt (SEI- right knee)
How to Watch
OL Reign kicks off against the Houston Dash at 5:30 PM PT. The road match will air exclusively on Twitch (Search NWSLOfficial).