OL Reign kicks off another three-match week on Saturday with a game on the road against Racing Louisville. The match will kick off at 4:30 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ for fans in the U.S., along with TSN+ in Canada and NWSLSoccer.com for the remaining international viewers.
The Reign started the season with a 3-1-0 record, while Louisville is 0-1-3 — earning their first loss last weekend against Portland. OL Reign has scored eight goals while allowing three, while Racing Louisville has conceded six and scored four.
Saturday’s contest between OL Reign and Racing Louisville FC will be the league’s 1000th regular season match. And if the Reign win, they will become just the second team to reach 100 regular season wins, after Portland.
Here are five things to know about OL Reign’s weekend opponent.
New additions on the backline
Last year, Racing was vulnerable in transition. They also relied too much on the shot-stopping strengths of goalkeeper Katie Lund, who is having another strong season so far. This year, they look to be much less likely to give up a goal on a counter.
Racing Louisville bolstered their backline in a trade with the North Carolina Courage — sending U.S. women’s national team defender Emily Fox to the Courage and getting Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett in return. Those two have been critical additions for Louisville, with Erceg’s veteran leadership helping organize the defense and Pickett providing a real threat with her service from the left wing. They also brought in Finnish defender Elli Pikkujämsä, who can play as centerback or as a holding midfielder.
A tough opponent for OL Reign
The Reign have had some issues beating Louisville. Their last three regular-season matches have ended in a draw. Part of that has been the result of the Reign not finishing their chances in the first half (sound familiar?). The Reign also gave up a few uncharacteristic goals — primarily off poor clearances.
Dangerous on set pieces
The set-piece talents of Savannah DeMelo make Louisville dangerous on corners and free kicks. They’ve scored one goal already from a set piece and lead the league with 18 shots from set plays. In addition to DeMelo’s service, Erceg presents a new threat for Louisville in the air. The Reign pride themselves on set-piece defense — having given up zero set-piece goals since the start of last year — but this will be a big test.
Way to use your head, @abbyerceg.— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) April 1, 2023
1-2 | #LOUvWAS pic.twitter.com/XmCUGZG1sK
Building through their midfield
Racing Louisville has a really strong midfield, including two fringe U.S. women’s national team players in Jaelin Howell as the holding midfielder and DeMelo as an attacking midfielder. Howell is a disruptor, leading the team in interceptions and successful tackles. She doesn’t get into the attack too much, but is great in the air and is another dangerous option on set plays.
The club’s other big addition this year is Brazilian midfielder Ary Borges, who adds a new dynamic to Louisville’s attack. Borges serves as the box-to-box midfielder and averages 36 accurate passes a match — the highest on the team behind Erceg. Howell isn’t far behind with 33 accurate passes per 90.
Borges is strong on the dribble, a great connector, and can score a banger or two.
Talk about a clean finish, @_aryborges. — Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) April 1, 2023
2-2 | #LOUvWAS pic.twitter.com/nFkVUa4Lz1
While DeMelo doesn’t get on the ball as often, she creates plenty of chances for Racing. Borges and DeMelo are tied for second on the squad in key passes, with eight apiece. And if you are successful marking both of them, they’ll just find Pickett on the left wing, who leads the team with nine key passes.
Quick and direct attack
This Racing Louisville attack is young and quick, which means they can get the ball from their defensive third to the frontline quickly. They are second in the league, behind Portland, in the number of direct-attack sequences that have resulted in a shot (12, versus six for the Reign) and are second behind the Washington Spirit in their direct speed, which marks the number of meters the ball travels divided by the total time in a sequence.
This can be particularly dangerous for opponents, as Racing likes to put some pressure on opponents in the middle third and transition into the attack quickly. Case in point: This goal against Angel City FC:
Come for the @jaehowell18 tackle.— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) April 17, 2023
Stay for the @kirstendavis22 finish. pic.twitter.com/E23FCU9F3N
The Reign will need to make sure their line isn’t too high and that they pressure Racing higher up the field, and they’ll need to be smart in possession.
How to Watch
OL Reign kicks off against Racing Louisville at 4:30 PM PT on Saturday, April 29. The road game will be streamed on Paramount+ (U.S.), TSN+ (Canada), and NWSLSoccer.com (International).