On Saturday evening, it was a tale of two halves for OL Reign, who managed to salvage a draw against Racing Louisville after going down by two goals in the first half. As Ride of the Valkyries already highlighted, a Megan Rapinoe penalty and a Jordyn Huitema header sealed the draw for the Reign.
While OL Reign won the expected goals (xG) challenge, with 1.44 xG compared to 1.0 for Racing Louisville, the team put on its worst performance of the year and will be hungry to bounce back with two home games to conclude this three-match week.
Here are three stats that help tell the story of OL Reign’s road draw.
Racing Louisville had 24 interceptions, the most of any team against OL Reign this year. Much of that was a result of Louisville’s intense and effective press in the first half, but a lot was also due to some sloppy passing by the Reign in the opening 45 minutes. Sure, the Reign were put under pressure — especially on the wings — but it was baffling how often the back six sent what should have been a simple ball straight to Louisville.
As Huitema said in the post-match press conference, “I don’t think we connected passes, I don’t think our mindset was good. We just didn’t want to win.”
To further highlight the team’s frustrations, OL Reign was booked for the most fouls (14) in a match this season and earned two yellow cards.
OL Reign won 11 of their 14 aerial duels, good for a 78.6% success rate. It was the team’s best percentage all season. Sam Hiatt and Huitema led the category for the Reign, with Huitema winning the most important aerial duel of the night on her equalizer.
1000th regular season match = chaos, because #NWSL. #ReignSupreme #LOUvRGN pic.twitter.com/tpgO5Qto57— Ride of the Valkyries (@rovalks) April 30, 2023
The Reign also won 27 ground duels, a 56% success rate. Even when things weren’t going their way, the team was still fighting to win the ball.
In just 45 minutes of play, substitute Nikki Stanton won three ground duels, one aerial duel, and one tackle — demonstrating her impact on the match in the second half. Her ability to win these duels allowed Jess Fishlock to push higher into the attack and settled the team down in possession.
Alana Cook had 109 touches against Racing Louisville. Her centerback partner Hiatt had 80, the second most on the squad, followed by fullbacks Sofia Huerta and Lauren Barnes. It was clear that Racing was comfortable letting OL Reign’s centerbacks have the ball without a ton of pressure. When they tried to dribble forward or release a pass to their holding midfielders or outside on the wing, that’s when Louisville would close down — pressuring the Reign and quickly cutting off passing lanes. To try to break the press, Cook attempted a season-high 22 long balls and only connected with a teammate on 10 of those.
“I just think they did a good job pressing and making it difficult,” Rapinoe said after the match, before noting that she felt like the poor response was on the players and not the coaching staff. “I feel like we had the pictures in our gameplan, we just didn’t execute it on the field, so that’s on us. We just weren’t completing passes, turning the ball over, and too many touches — and then they score and it gets stressful.”
As a result of Louisville’s press OL Reign had the most touches this season in their defensive third and the fewest of the year in their attacking third. In addition, the Reign had just 16 touches in Racing’s penalty box — another season low — compared to their season-high of 31 against Chicago.
“I’ve said it to a lot of people, I think Louisville are a really good team,” head coach Laura Harvey said after the match. “I think they’ll be making the playoffs this year, no doubt in my mind. It’s a really good game for us to watch back and learn from.”
The Reign will have to learn and respond quickly, as the team hosts Angel City in a Challenge Cup match on Wednesday, May 3, before the Houston Dash come to Lumen Field on Saturday, May 6, for a regular season battle. That match marks the return of Sam Laity, who was the Reign’s primary assistant coach for 10 years before earning a head coaching role in Houston this year. Laity has led the Dash to a 1-1-3 start, with the team’s only loss coming last weekend when their match against NC was called in the 51st minute after a three-hour lightning delay.