After a lengthy delay, with kickoff postponed for an hour and a half by lightning, OL Reign laid down a comprehensive road performance, defeating NJ/NY Gotham, 2-0, on a first-half goal by Jess Fishlock and a second-half goal by Bethany Balcer.
Aside from a few nervy moments in the early going, the Reign controlled proceedings from start to finish, with Fishlock’s sweet 31st minute strike giving them a lead they would never relinquish, and Balcer’s scrappy 62nd minute finish giving them a cushion they’d handily ride out to the final whistle.
After the scoring woes of last match (and last season), it was a cathartic result, scoring multiple goals on the road and handily winning a match the Reign handily controlled. The skies in Jersey parted, but Gotham couldn’t stop the Reign.
WHAT WORKED: JESS FISHLOCK FOREVER
Did you know that Jess Fishlock has scored in every single NWSL season? Now you know. Jess Fishlock has scored in every. single. NWSL season. A perfect ball in from Rose Lavelle, an incisive diagonal run from Fishlock, and an absolutely vicious shot past a sprawling Abby Smith gave OL Reign the lead in the 31st minute. Beautiful soccer with a beautiful result, and hopefully a goal to quell some of the demons.
Death. Taxes. @JessFishlock scoring a goal in every #NWSL season since the inaugural season in 2013.— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) April 2, 2023
There's only one Jess Fishlock. #ReignSupreme pic.twitter.com/1QjUlKlYlg
WHAT WORKED: WELCOME TO THE BOATS SHOW
Bethany Balcer started her campaign for #GOLDENBOATS in the 62nd minute, reacting first to the loose ball and cleaning up her own chaos in the box with the classiest of toe-pokes. She had another huge chance mere moments later, finding herself with an open look and all the time in the world, but she curled it just wide. Near-miss aside, Boats was an active presence up and down the pitch, making things happen all night, and gave us a good reminder of just what a presence she can be in the 18-yard box.
Happy Gilmore @bethanybalcer— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) April 2, 2023
"Just tap it in..."pic.twitter.com/cUazgo5uMK
WHAT WORKED: WELCOME BACK, SINEAD FARRELLY
For the first time since 2015, Sinead Farrelly took the pitch, substituting on for Gotham in the 70th minute. It may be one of the most important moments in the league’s history. There’s still so much work to be done, for all of our teams, for our league, for our sport to become what it should be. There are not enough words to speak to the statement and the reclamation of power her return represents. Welcome back, Sinead Farrelly. You always should have been here. You always should have been safe here.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: SOME LITTLE THINGS, I GUESS..?
After a pretty comprehensive win like this one, it feels a little precious to talk about what didn’t work, but there are always little things to improve. Balcer had an open look that could’ve been a brace, but she curled it just wide. Sometimes the right move is to hit the shit out of it. Sonnett got her pocket picked a couple times early, but to her credit, she adapted quickly. While she may not be the favorite pick at 6, she’s learning and improving. The backline was occasionally out of sorts with the pace of Gotham’s attackers, but organization won out and ultimately frustrated Gotham for the last 80-plus minutes.
It’s the little things. If this is the level of ‘shit not working’ we’re going to be treated to this year, it’s a good year ahead of us.
“I THINK AGE IS BUT A NUMBER WITH HER.”
Laura Harvey had a lot to say about Jess Fishlock’s dynamic performance and historic goal, practically (to borrow a cliche) running out of superlatives. She highlighted Jess’ class and footballing intelligence, saying she “embodies everything that we wanna be at this club,” and called out Jess’ consistent excellence: “I think age is but a number with her. She’s been excellent all preseason and I’m glad that she can get this sort of recognition tonight of getting that accomplishment.”
“WE ALL GOT HANGRY.”
The uncertainty around weather delays is difficult on fans and broadcasters, but pales in comparison to the anxiety it causes players who have planned their entire daily schedule around a game happening at a certain time. Bethany Balcer said the atmosphere of the Reign locker room started out good, with many players occupying themselves with books, music or games “for probably 15, 20 minutes, and then the hunger kicked in and then we all just got hangry. It was hard to pass the time.”
OL Reign are back in action for their home opener against San Diego Wave at Lumen Field in two weeks. The match is scheduled for Saturday, April 15th with a 7:00 PM PT kickoff.
Seattle-area fans who can’t make it to the match can catch the game on FOX 13+, while the rest of the United States will be able to view the game on Paramount+. International fans can watch on NWSLsoccer.com.