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Reign Training Notebook: Looking forward to some home cooking

After a tough travel schedule and absences, team is nearing full strength ahead of stretch of home matches.

NWSL: OL Reign at NJ/NY Gotham FC Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. — After a travel day and a day off following their 1-0 road loss to the North Carolina Courage, OL Reign returned to the training pitch at Starfire on Wednesday as they prepare to welcome Gotham FC to Lumen Field on Sunday afternoon. A big focus on the day was identifying when a plan isn’t working and being able to shift, which head coach Laura Harvey felt was a key problem in Sunday’s loss.

“The way we want to play, we have to be really smart and I didn’t think we were too smart on and off the ball,” she told Ride of the Valkyries after training. “We had a conversation today about it of like when that’s not happening, we need to be a little bit more pragmatic about what we do.

“I think [North Carolina’s] goal was an example of that… we’re very aggressive when we give the ball away, but then we end up giving space behind them, which we don’t normally do. I think overall it will be a good lesson for us, a good thing for us to lean on in the tough times that we have.”

The team has been missing several key midfield players for recent matches which has required Harvey to get creative with some of her lineup decisions, but the team has received a bit of good news recently with Quinn cleared to resume play and making a substitute appearance on Sunday, and Olivia Van Der Jagt also back at training today after missing almost a month with an excused absence. Rose Lavelle did not participate in any group drills, but is said to be making progress in recovering from her injury.

The overall poor Courage performance aside, Harvey said she has been pleased by what she has seen from her team while facing these challenges, and thinks it has prepared them well for World Cup absences later this summer.

“I think everyone’s been great,” she said about the players such as Bethany Balcer and Nikki Stanton who have stepped in to fill those midfield roles. “We have had a lot of injuries, we have had key people out, but to have been on the run we’ve been on with those key people out, I think it gives us a ton of confidence.”

Before she worries about international absences, however, Harvey is focused on the opportunity ahead of the team with a stretch of four league games in a row at home with most of her squad healthy and available, after what had been a very challenging start to the season in terms of travel, absences and fixture congestion.

“We’ve got to make sure that we put right the things that we feel like we sort of lost in that North Carolina game, and there’s no better way to do that than being at home,” Harvey noted. “I think we feel comfortable there, we know what we need to do, we’re not going to get on a plane. I think that’s going to be crucial to us.

“And I said to the group, the fact that we are where we are in the league with the amount of points that we’ve gotten, with already doing [road games at] Washington, Gotham, Louisville, North Carolina… that’s big, you know, that we’ve been on all those trips already. We’ve only got Orlando left really on the East Coast, so I think that that’s true testament to where we are.”

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