OL Reign’s second Challenge Cup matchup against Angel City felt in many ways like the first one. This time, however, OL Reign was unable to find a goal in the second half and the match at Lumen Field ended in a scoreless draw.
It was a defensive battle for 90 minutes, with Angel City having nine shots and OL Reign getting five. With the draw, the Reign remain at the top of the West group in the Challenge Cup, with both the San Diego Wave and Portland Thorns playing one fewer match.
The draw brings the all-time series to 5-0-1 between the Reign and Angel City.
WHAT WORKED: A YOUNG LINEUP STANDS FIRM
The average age of the starting lineup on Wednesday night was 25.45 years old, and just three players also started last weekend. It took the team a little time to settle in, but the Reign had some good near-chances, with a Tziarra King shot off the post in the 9th minute, another deflected just wide in the 43rd, and Olivia Athens getting a great look at the start of the second half.
❌ @Brittany1Wilson keeps @weareangelcity level with a BIG stop ❌ pic.twitter.com/Y0ObSo0AaM— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 4, 2023
Marley Canales also put in a great shift alongside Nikki Stanton in the midfield, and the Reign’s young defenders held firm in front of goal.
WHAT WORKED: ANOTHER CLEAN SHEET
Angel City was coming off a road match in Portland where they scored three goals, so one wouldn’t be too surprised if they had a goal in them on Wednesday night. The Reign backline of Ryanne Brown, Shae Holmes, Sam Hiatt, and Sofia Huerta held strong — earning a clean sheet and allowing just three shots from inside the box and two shots on goal.
The rookie Holmes played left centerback this time after slotting in at left back in the last Challenge Cup match and had a quietly calm and strong match. Brown, who has mostly played right back for OL Reign, got the start at left back. She also had a strong performance, including an incredible goal-line save on an Angel City corner kick.
okay how @ryanne_alyse_??? pic.twitter.com/AWTDakkn2O— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) May 4, 2023
OL Reign now holds the NWSL record for Challenge Cup clean sheets and are the only team with three goalkeepers recording a clean sheet in 2023 competitions.
With tonight’s clean sheet, OL Reign now holds the league record for all-time clean sheets in the UKG Challenge Cup with nine.— OL Reign PR (@OLReignPR) May 4, 2023
Additionally, OL Reign is the only team in the league to have three different goalkeepers with a clean sheet across all competitions in 2023.
WHAT WORKED: GOALKEEPER DEPTH
While Phallon Tullis-Joyce has earned the starting role for OL Reign — and was just named to the Team of the Month — the Reign have two quality goalkeepers behind her. After Claudia Dickey got the start in the Challenge Cup opener, Laurel Ivory earned the nod today. Ivory wasn’t tested a ton, but she came up big when it mattered — stopping a dangerous Savannah McCaskill shot in the 75th minute. Ivory came out confidently to collect balls as well. It’s nice to have full confidence in Tullis-Joyce’s backups.
“It’s hard talking about Laurel and Claudia because, obviously when everyone’s seeing them for the first time, it’s quite surprising to everyone, but we see them every day, so it’s not shocking to us at all,” OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey said after the game. “I’m really glad that both of them were able to get a clean sheet in the games that they’ve played.”
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: NO GOALS
While it was a strong defensive performance for the Reign, the team only had one shot on goal all match and managed just five shots. Considering the injuries and absences the team is dealing with and the high amount of travel to start to OL Reign’s season — with road travel to D.C., New Jersey, and Louisville and two three-week matches — it’s not too surprising that the final pass wasn’t there. Still, the team struggled for the second time to create opportunities against Angel City.
“We don’t ever want to end a game 0-0,” Reign forward Tziarra King said in the post-match press conference. “I think with the threats that we have on the field, any moment could be a game-changing, goal-scoring opportunity. We want the win always, but this is a good building opportunity. We always have that kind of belief.”
“We’ve had an absolutely ridiculous schedule”
After the match, Harvey noted that some of the Reign’s sloppy passing and unfortunate giveaways were the result of their inability to train together these last few weeks.
“I don’t think we’ve trained properly since the [early April] FIFA break,” Harvey said. “We’ve had an absolutely ridiculous schedule and that was what you could see. Especially when you’re doing a rotation, that team needs to train. We were just not in a position to train.”
As Harvey mentioned, with so much rotation for the Challenge Cup, you want those players to have meaningful training time together to eliminate some of the sloppy passes and mistimed runs. The Reign haven’t had that.
The team had training on Monday and Tuesday before today’s match, and will have just one day of training before Saturday’s game. Then they travel to North Carolina, so they’ll have to factor in match recovery and travel again next week.
OL Reign concludes their three-match week on Saturday, May 6, with a home match against the Houston Dash. That game kicks off at 7 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ (US), TSN+ (Canada), and NWSLSoccer.com (international).