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Three Stats: OL Reign vs. Gotham FC

Unpacking OL Reign’s 4-1 home loss.

NWSL: NJ/NY Gotham FC at OL Reign Michael Thomas Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Sunday afternoon, OL Reign had only lost once at Lumen Field. Unfortunately, the Reign doubled that total with a 4-1 loss against NJ/NY Gotham FC. The two teams were even on points before kickoff, but the win propelled Gotham to the top of the NWSL table, while the Reign fell to fifth.

If you only looked at the expected goals (xG) numbers for the match, you might think the game was fairly close. OL Reign finished with 1.31 xG compared to 1.99 for Gotham. But the Reign never took control of the game in the first half — falling into Gotham’s pressing traps and giving up three goals in the first 45 minutes.

That deficit was too much to come back from in the second half, and while Jordyn Huitema got one goal back, it was far from enough to keep the game competitive.

Here are three stats that highlight how the match unfolded.


OL Reign players were dispossessed 19 times on Sunday, the most so far this season. Megan Rapinoe lost the ball four times, while Emily Sonnett and Sofia Huerta were each dispossessed three times.

Gotham, in comparison, was dispossessed only eight times — and all but two came from their forwards, in spots on the field where teams are comfortable taking more risks. Gotham also had 12 interceptions compared to just eight for the Reign.

The Reign knew heading into the match that Gotham liked to press high and close down on the ball quickly. Still, for the second time in a row, the team was unable to solve the pressure. Gotham head coach Juan Carlos Amoros might have surprised the Reign a little with his lineup decisions, as Delanie Sheehan — typically a midfielder — got her first start of 2023 at forward and Nealy Martin — a centerback — got her first start as a holding midfielder.

Sheehan, along with Sinead Farrelly, had a very specific role in Gotham’s press. Their task was to plug off passes to the Reign’s double-pivot midfield and force the Reign to the left, presumably to limit Alana Cook’s dangerous long balls (she leads the league in completed long balls per match) and ensure Huerta couldn’t add numbers in the attack.

If the ball went from Lauren Barnes back to Sam Hiatt, Kristie Mewis would pull high to the other holding midfielder as well. When the Reign tried to move the ball up on the left side, Lynn Williams was positioned deeper to apply immediate pressure and 20-year-old Bruninha didn’t leave Rapinoe’s side.

Here’s one clip that highlights how the Reign played into Gotham’s effective press.

On the other side of the pitch, winger Taylor Smith worked hard defensively to prevent Sofia Huerta from getting involved in the attack, and rookie Jenna Nighswonger kept pace with Bethany Balcer, preventing her from getting in behind on the wing.

OL Reign played right into Gotham’s hands, as you can see from their pass map. All the action is on the left side, while Huerta only attempted 26 passes.

It’s very clear: something isn’t working with the Reign’s build-up. Historically, the Reign have loved teams that press them because they are able to solve problems quickly and find the space. These last two weeks have been the exact opposite.

“I thought Lynn [Williams] was excellent in how she pressed. I thought we made it easy for her, to be honest,” head coach Laura Harvey said after the match. She also confirmed that the Reign yet again weren’t trying to channel their play to one side of the pitch. “It wasn’t a strategy to go down the left. It wasn’t a strategy last week to go down the right. I think that’s part of what we need to solve right now is, teams are trying to make us do things and we’re falling into their trap.”

Speaking of Williams, she won five tackles and 18 duels and had 10 recoveries along with two interceptions. Truly elite numbers.


Gotham won 47 ground duels compared to 30 for OL Reign. They also had a 71% tackle success rate compared to 65% for the Reign. On days when momentum isn’t on your side, you have to win individual battles. The Reign didn’t do that. Gotham did.

“I thought that they [Gotham] 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,” Harvey said in her post-match press conference.

As Harvey also noted, even before giving up the first goal, the Reign were not dictating the tempo and dominating play — something you’d expect them to do at home. Starting strong has been an issue for the Reign lately. They haven’t scored in the first half since April 22, five regular-season matches ago.


OL Reign players were offside seven times on Sunday, another team high this season. That can happen against teams like Gotham that play with a high backline. At the same time, this was by far the highest number for an opponent against Gotham this season (their previous high was four in a match) — meaning the visitors either ran their high line better than ever before, or the Reign fell into their offside trap all too often.

It felt like a mix of both.

When the Reign tried to go over the top, they were either offside or the ball was too hard and fell comfortably to Gotham goalkeeper Abby Smith, who also plays high for her position.

As a result, the Reign had just three passes into the penalty area, another season low after last weekend. They also had a season-low 10 touches in their attacking penalty area — despite having 50% possession.

This is a match where numbers alone don’t highlight all the issues OL Reign had in the match. Gotham outplayed them in almost every way. Hopefully, the coaching staff makes some adjustments and the team is motivated to put on a much better performance at home on Saturday when they host Angel City. That game kicks off at 12:30 PM PT.

“We know it wasn’t good enough, so I think we all take our own space and look into ourselves to figure it out first ... before we then collectively come together and figure out what we need to figure out,” Huitema said to close out the post-match press conference.

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