It certainly wasn’t the most entertaining match, but OL Reign earned a 0-0 draw against Angel City in their second Challenge Cup match — keeping the Reign at the top of the West group for the time being.
The match was OL Reign’s second in another three-game week, and the draw extended the Reign’s undefeated record in all competitions against Angel City.
Here are three stats that help tell the story of the scoreless draw.
OL Reign only took five shots in the 90 minutes against Angel City FC, and just one of those was on target. That’s not good enough, no matter how much rotation the team had for the Challenge Cup. The starting frontline of Tziarra King, Elyse Bennett, and Veronica Latsko should have been able to get a few more shots off.
It’s not as if the Reign weren’t progressing the ball. They actually had the most passes into their final third of any match this season and had more passes into the box than in their first Challenge Cup match against Angel City. The team just struggled to be decisive and aggressive when they got into these spots.
A few times, a player elected to look for a pass or a dribble instead of shooting. Other times, the final pass was just a little bit off. As a result, OL Reign had an expected goal (xG) total of just .45 — by far the team’s lowest of the season.
It should also be noted that Angel City threw out a double-pivot holding midfield, which gave the visitors a much more defensive look that added to the Reign’s attacking struggles.
Only getting five shots off with an xG of .45 is a concern, but we may have to wait for additional Challenge Cup matches to make any judgment on OL Reign’s depth players — especially because of stat number two ...
OK, this is cheating a little bit because this isn’t exactly a match stat, but is rather a number that gives some context for the game. If you looked at OL Reign’s roster and then looked at who was available to start Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup match, it could be argued that the team was missing seven of their preferred starters in the midfield. Seven.
Quinn, Rose Lavelle, and Angelina are still unavailable due to injuries. Olivia Van der Jagt remains out with an excused absence. Emily Sonnett was getting rested and didn’t suit up. And Jess Fishlock and Bethany Balcer were second-half subs to manage their minutes.
Of course, the team has a “next player up” mentality, but when you are stretched that thin and asking rotational players who haven’t had a lot of minutes to step up, some issues in possession may emerge. The midfield of Nikki Stanton, Marley Canales, and Olivia Athens did well to protect their goal, but they didn’t offer as much on the ball as a collective.
It should be noted that Athens carried this burden fairly well. In fact, she had the second-most completed passes into the final third of any Reign player this year, with 17 in 75 minutes. Only Fishlock had more when she completed 18 against San Diego in a full 90 minutes.
The Reign players combined for 37 tackles and interceptions won, the club’s highest total in any competition this season. They also had a season-high 23 clearances. While Angel City also rotated on Wednesday night, they were coming into the Challenge Cup match after scoring three goals against Portland in regular-season play. That will give any team confidence, but OL Reign’s defense stood strong, only allowing Angel City low-quality chances.
The visitors had a similarly low xG of .59. The only lower total for a Reign opponent this season was .52 xG for Gotham in OL Reign’s 2-0 regular season win.
OL Reign concludes their three-match week on Saturday, May 6, with a home match at Lumen Field against the Houston Dash, who are coached by longtime Reign assistant Sam Laity. That game kicks off at 7 PM PT and will stream on Paramount+ (US), TSN+ (Canada), and NWSLSoccer.com (international).