After a 1-0 loss at North Carolina Courage, OL Reign were back in the comforts of their Lumen Field home, hosting Gotham FC to close out their regular season series after winning 2-0 in New Jersey back in April. The tables were turned this Sunday as Gotham blitzed OL Reign for two goals in two minutes early in the first half, then nicked a third in the closing minutes of the half for what was, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst half OL Reign have ever played.
Jordyn Huitema got a consolation goal for OL Reign in the 77th minute, but that was after Bruninha claimed a fourth goal for Gotham four minutes earlier.
WHAT WORKED: NOTHING
Let’s not sugarcoat it. OL Reign were bad today, no matter how good Gotham were.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: THAT FIRST HALF, ALL OF IT
Do you remember that first half OL Reign had at Racing Louisville on April 29? That was bad, right? Well this first half against Gotham just took the title as the worst half OL Reign have done on the field. Conceding the first goal is what it is — all credit goes to Jenna Nighswonger for an impressive long-distance strike. The blunder by Lu Barnes was obviously uncharacteristic, but also doesn’t help when goal-machine Lynn Williams is putting on the pressure to induce that mistake. This third goal though, as much as it was a teamwork goal by Gotham, the standing around, ball-watching by OL Reign was just inexcusable.
This is a work of art ️— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 21, 2023
️ by @GothamFC pic.twitter.com/ry1BtJtzK0
Whatever presence and movement OL Reign had in the attacking half of the field had more traits of last week at North Carolina. No connection, no getting the ball to impact players like Sofia Huerta. Gotham’s relentless pressing did a lot to force OL Reign to try and play it out of the back, but a team this talented, with expectations to be a title contender, should be able to push through and find a way to succeed. Conceding two goals in a two-minute span put OL Reign on the ropes, and Taylor Smith’s goal was the knockout blow.
Bruninha getting the fourth goal for Gotham was just a bonus for the side that was better in all facets of the game, right from kickoff. The fact that the final Gotham goal came because of a bad touch by Veronica Latsko for Bruninha to pounce on, summarized the game in a nutshell.
Bruninha just won't be denied for her first NWSL goal pic.twitter.com/AbTmzz3c6y— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 21, 2023
“You can’t come in at 3-0 down and expect to be able to turn a game around.”
In her postgame comments, OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey conceded that Gotham were the better team today. Without having a cause for the poor start, Harvey said at halftime that she challenged, even if the three-goal deficit was insurmountable.
“We obviously started off very poorly,” she said. “Credit to them, I thought they were excellent. We didn’t have a response to that. We played ourselves into danger a lot, didn’t realize it quick enough. Obviously two goals of theirs come from mistakes from us, but I’m not going to take anything away from them. I thought that they were up for it, they were on the front foot, they won first and second balls. They did all the things that you have to do in this league to be hard to beat.
“I think conceding early was tough, but even before the goal, we didn’t start well and then I just said at halftime, they needed to make a choice whether we threw the game away or we tried to get back into it. I thought in the second half, we dug in and we tried and we pushed, didn’t quite have quality throughout the whole game, but you can’t come in at 3-0 down and expect to be able to turn a game around.”
“There’s something, obviously, that’s just not kind of clicking right now.”
Jess Fishlock was almost without words about today’s loss, saying that while it’s not a problem with the team’s mentality, there something the players need to identify that’s not working, resulting in back-to=back loses.
“I think that’s what we’ve got to figure out, at this point. I don’t think it’s a mentality thing, I don’t think it’s — I know this group and we’ve been together for a while now and it’s not that we don’t want to work for it, it’s not that we don’t believe in it, it’s not that. But there’s something, obviously, that’s just not kind of clicking right now,” observed Fishlock. “So, the only way we’re going to get through this is staying together and talking to each other and figuring out what we need, what each other needs, what can we give to each other and not separate, not be individual, that’s not going to work.
“So, for us, it’s just — we trust each other, we know how good our players are individually and collectively, so it’s just sitting down and talking to each other and figuring this out together, collectively, sticking together, getting on the training field and finding the solutions to the problems. So, I’m confident that we can do that with this group.”
The loss puts OL Reign down to fifth in the standings with 13 points and this weekend’s matches around the league in the books. OL Reign remain at home for their next match, hosting ninth-place Angel City FC on Saturday, May 27 at 12:30 PM PT. If it feels like OL Reign have matched up against Angel City FC many times already, you’re not wrong. The two sides have already meet in the home/away splits for the NWSL Challenge Cup, but this will be their first NWSL regular season meeting in 2023. Those unable to be in attendance at Lumen Field can watch on Paramount+ in the US, while those in Canada can watch on TSN+. All other international viewers can view the game on NWSLSoccer.com.