clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Challenge Cup presents OL Reign opportunity to spread minutes around

Big boost to Cup prize pool has Harvey wanting to see more rewards for regular season play, too.

MikeRussellFoto / Sounder at Heart

TUKWILA — Monday was a recovery day for most of OL Reign’s weekend starters as the team prepared for their first midweek clash of the season, a Challenge Cup group stage match against Angel City FC in Los Angeles on Wednesday evening. Aside from goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce, the rest of the squad on the training pitch at Starfire were substitutes, trialists, and players who did not make an appearance against San Diego Wave. This was perhaps a portent of what to expect in Los Angeles, where Head Coach Laura Harvey hinted the team will likely start a rotated lineup.

“We will use it [the Challenge Cup] to build our roster and get minutes for people … we did that last year,” said Harvey when she spoke with Ride of the Valkyries after training. “We’ll probably do it even more this year with the fact that the games are midweek … It’s just a good opportunity to really build the roster up. Obviously, we know that throughout the World Cup we’re going to be missing a lot of players too, so I sort of look at it two-fold, that gives the starters a bit of a breather potentially but also gives the people that haven’t played as many minutes a chance to get some minutes under their belt because we’re going to be needing them very soon.”

Last week, the NWSL and Challenge Cup naming rights sponsor UKG announced that the prize pool for the 2023 Challenge Cup has been doubled to $1 million, after already boosting it ten-fold last season. Harvey was thrilled that people are willing to invest so much in the league, but feels that there needs to be a renewed focus on rewarding teams for strong performances in the regular season and playoffs.

“The fact that people are willing to invest in it is great,” she said. “I think we just need to revert back to what’s the most important thing, and the Challenge Cup served its purpose when it was needed, but we play 22 regular season games and a playoff and the fact that the prize money is bigger for the players in the Challenge Cup than it is for doing that is ludicrous.”

Miscellaneous notes

  • The team is traveling to LA this afternoon and will get in one more day of training before Wednesday evening’s game, then will return to Seattle on Thursday and have one training opportunity on Friday before Saturday’s league game against Chicago.
  • Phoebe McClernon and Angelina, who have each missed the first three games of the season with injuries, were full participants in training, though the latter played as a neutral in a scrimmage at the end of practice. Rose Lavelle did not make an appearance outside; there was no update available on her status heading into the next game.
  • Looking back on the San Diego match, Harvey said she thought the team was still “one pass off of being very good, and creating more chances than we ended up having,” but felt the result was deserved after the Reign dominated the final 20 minutes of the game and would have been disappointing to not secure all three points.
  • Harvey said she’s been happy with Emily Sonnett’s performance in the defensive midfield role, noting that she does well to break up play in a manner that fits how the team wants to play, especially with Quinn still working their way back from injury. Sonnett being a viable option in that role has made it easier for Harvey to do some squad rotation as the schedule becomes congested.
  • Tullis-Joyce is nominated for NWSL Player of the Week for her shutout performance on Saturday. Harvey praised how she stepped up to make some critical saves and also talked about how the team has tried to reduce the amount of heroics they’re asking of her this season. “She was having to make lots of saves at the start of the [2022] season and getting plaudits for that which were deserved, [but] I think what we want is for it to be a limited amount of opportunities for her to have to make saves,” Harvey said. “But when she was asked to make them [on Saturday], she stood up big.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Sounder At Heart Weekly Roundup newsletter!

A twice weekly roundup of Seattle Sounders and OL Reign news from Sounder at Heart