OL Reign season ends in NWSL Semifinal loss to Washington Spirit

OL Reign 1
Washington Spirit 2
NWSL Semifinal – November 14, 2021
Cheney Stadium – Tacoma, WA

The first of two Sunday semifinals pitted the host OL Reign against the visiting Washington Spirit in Tacoma. The stakes were simple; win and go to Louisville for the final on the 20th, or lose and the season ends in Cheney Stadium. Both sides entered the match having played well down the stretch and with limited personnel restrictions.

The two sides had met recently at this same location, with the Spirit taking the three points. The Reign had managed to earn the bye week in the season finale, having extra rest at home while Washington went out and defeated North Carolina in the first round at home.

The host Reign got off to a lightning start, grabbing a goal in the third minute when Megan Rapinoe was played through by Dzsenifer Marozsan and Eugenie Le Sommer was there to tap in the cross on the back post. They nearly doubled their lead early in the 10th, but to no avail.

Washington would respond in the 12th when a long through pass to Trinity Rodman was converted with a right footed strike from the top of the box to level the match. Suddenly, it was level instead of one team with a large early lead.

The match pace remained end to end as the first half progressed. Each side utilized the smaller dimensions of Cheney Stadium for some direct play, putting both defensive lines under pressure, but also leading to a number of offside calls.

Spirit possession became much more of a factor as the half wound down, putting the hosts under pressure to keep the match level going into the interval. What looked like a match that could quickly take off in OL Reign favor was level both in score and play.

Both sides came out with chances early in the second half, with Rapinoe hitting a post and Rodman near post wide twice.

Prior to the match in the weekly Zoom presser, Jess Fishlock spoke of just how different playoff games were. The intensity on every pass and pressure in this match definitely spoke to that. In the 61st minute Spirit defender Kelley O’Hara received a yellow for upending Rapinoe.

Bethany Balcer came on for Quinn in the 66th and it appeared Reign coach Laura Harvey was pushing for the goal and not extra time with even more offense on the pitch.

But, in a bit of a near post scramble a few moments later Washington took the lead when Ashley Sanchez somehow found the net on an odd angle. Sanchez managed to scoop and lift the ball over the Reign defenders and it simply floated to the far post and in.

The Spirit managed to weather a series of OL Reign attacks, including one last cross and header on goal as stoppage time wound down. With the win, Washington faces the winner of match two in Louisville on November 20.

The Reign had an amazing run from coaching change to a hosted semifinal, and their season should be considered a success based upon all they overcame, but giving up that early lead was a tough thing to come back from.
It will be an interesting off-season in Tacoma. The Reign managed to right the ship midseason and make a run to the semifinal, and even losing this was a match that could have bounced either way given the quality of play on both sides.

This is a Washington Spirit team that also overcame so much adversity, and now they have a shot at finishing the season as champions. The Spirit have veterans in key places, and young talent that is dangerous. After the match, Reign coach Laura Harvey remarked this was the best team they faced since she came back. Chicago will have its hands full in the final.

BOX

2021 NWSL Semifinal
OL Reign (13-8-3, 42 points in regular season) 1-2 Washington Spirit (11-6-7, 39 points in regular season)
Date/Time: Sunday, November 14, 2021, 12:00 p.m. PT
Location: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Washington
Weather: 59, Cloudy

Scoring Summary

RGN: Le Sommer – 3’
WASH: Rodman – 12’, Sanchez – 68’

Discipline

RGN: Rapinoe (Caution – 88’), Watt – (Caution – 89’)
WASH: O’Hara (Caution – 61’)

Lineups

RGN: GK Bouhaddi, D McNabb, D Barnes © (Watt 86’), D Cook D Huerta, M Lavelle, M Quinn (Balcer 66’), M Fishlock (Weatherholt 75’), F Rapinoe, F Marozsán, F Le Sommer
Unused Substitutes: GK Tullis-Joyce, D Brooks, D Celia, D Cox, M Angelina, M Cruz

Total Shots: 23 (Le Sommer– 7)
Shots on Goal: 3 (Le Sommer – 2)
Fouls: 10 (Barnes – 3)
Offsides: 8 (Rapinoe – 5)
Corner Kicks: 5
Saves: 2 (Bouhaddi – 2)

WASH: GK Beldsoe, D Staab, D O’Hara, D Sonnett, D McGrady (Roddar 72’), M Sanchez (Aylmer 91’), M Sullivan ©, M Bailey, F Rodman, F McKeown (Heilferty 80’), F Hatch (Neilsen 92’)
Unused Substitutes: M Takarada, F Yokoyama, GK Kerr, D Rodriguez, D Biegalski

Total Shots: 13 (Rodman– 5)
Shots on Goal: 4 (Rodman – 2)
Fouls: 7 (Three tied with – 2)
Offsides: 1 (Rodman – 1)
Corner Kicks: 5
Saves: 2 (Bledsoe – 2)

Officials
Referee: Matthew Franz
Assistant Referees: Alicia Messer, Brooke Mayo

OL Reign finish home slate with tough loss

OL Reign 0
Washington Spirit 2
NWSL Regular Season
Cheney Stadium – Tacoma, WA
October 16, 2021

OL Reign played host to Washington Spirit Saturday night in Tacoma as both sides looked to surge into the playoffs. The host Reign not only could clinch the bye week and home match, but were still competing for a possible NWSL Shield. With home playoff games available for the 3rd and 4th place sides in the opening round, any points would be helpful for the Spirit.

The first half was an end to end affair, with both sides pushing forward much of the time. As a result, there was a good deal of pressure on each defense, and a number of dangerous chances were created by both.

A cross in the 22nd minute from Spirit defender Julia Roddar found the foot of the Taylor Aylmer, whose touch floated the ball over Reign keeper Sarah Bouhaddi and just under the crossbar.

Washington would take their one goal lead into the half.

Coming out of the interval, the hosts made a couple of substitutions to try and shake things up and rotate players after the grueling week. The Reign continued to press forward, the opportunities continued, but the Washington defense held.

Ashley Hatch extended the Spirit lead to two nil in the 59th minute with a right footed blast from outside the box that stunned the home crowd. With a half hour remaining, there was plenty of time for the hosts to come back, all it would take is a break through.

The visitors dedicated themselves to the defense of their two goal lead as the match wound down, keeping numbers back and frustrating Reign efforts to cohesively string together attacks. The break through for the Reign did not come as the Spirit defense held on for the clean sheet.

In the end, the two nil win for Washing is three huge points and a major opportunity taken. The standings set the Spirit up for a likely home first round match.

For the host Reign, this was a match of missed opportunities. The three points dropped likely will not keep them from the bye week, but the Shield now requires a lot of help from rival Portland.

Photos by Vanya Tucherov

BOX

Scoring Summary
RGN: none
WAS: Aylmer – 22’, Hatch – 59’

Discipline
RGN: Barnes (Caution – 27’), Le Sommer (Caution – 50’)
WAS: Roddar (Caution – 65’), Rodman (Caution – 81’)

Lineups
RGN: GK Bouhaddi, D McNabb, D Cook, D Barnes ©, D Huerta, M Angelina (Marozsán 46’), M Fishlock (Watt 85’), M Weatherholt (Quinn 46’), F Le Sommer, F Lavelle, F Rapinoe (Balcer 70’)
Unused Substitutes: GK Tullis-Joyce, D Brooks, D Celia, D Cox, M Cruz

Total Shots: 15 (Fishlock – 5)
Shots on Goal: 3 (Lavelle – 2)
Fouls: 8 (Rapinoe – 3)
Offsides: 3 (Rapinoe – 2)
Corner Kicks: 9
Saves: 4 (Bouhaddi – 4)

WAS: GK Bledsoe ©, D Staab, D O’Hara, D Sonnett, D Roddar (McGrady 72’), M Sanchez (Huster 81’), M Bailey, M Aylmer, F Rodman (Takarada 92’), F McKeown (Heilferty 72’), F Hatch (Yokoyama 92’)
Unused Substitutes: D Nielsen, GK Kerr, D Rodriguez, D Biegalski

Total Shots: 17 (Rodman – 4)
Shots on Goal: 7 (Rodman, Aylmer – 2)
Fouls: 9 (Rodman– 3)
Offsides: 1 (Rodman – 1)
Corner Kicks: 2
Saves: 4 (Bixby – 4)

Officials
Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva
Assistant Referees: Jennifer Garner, Tiffini Turpin

OL Reign take three huge points from Orlando Pride in 3-0 victory

OL Reign 3
Orlando Pride 0
NWSL Regular Season
September 26, 2021
Cheney Stadium – Tacoma, WA

Orlando Pride made the journey cross country to face OL Reign in Sunday NWSL action. With the two teams coming out of the international break and moving into the final month of the season with playoff position, bye weeks, and home games on the line. The weekly table shuffle is now a case of positioning.

The host Reign got off to a quick start, Sofia Huerta’s 3rd minute cross was finished by Bethany Balcer. For Balcer, it was her league leading ninth goal of the campaign. With Megan Rapinoe out for the match, the Reign still are loaded with offense. Huerta’s midseason move to outside back was as much about the depth of the offense as a need in defense, as she has utilized the opportunity to become a consistent overlapping threat.

The first half pace of play remained mostly the hosts on their front foot. A brace by Eugenie Le Sommer in the 28th and 32nd minute made it suddenly three nil. Le Sommer’s first was a long range shot catching Orlando keeper Ashlyn Harris enough off her line when the defense had turned the ball over just outside the box. Le Sommer’s quick decision paid off.

Rose Lavelle and Dzsenifer Marozsan each nearly extended the Reign lead late in the half, and the crossbar denied Le Sommer of her first half hat trick.

Orlando came into the match in solid form. The first half was not without moments and chances, but they were isolated and were followed up with Reign counters that challenged the Pride defense.

Orlando came out of the interval and pressed, getting a quick shot on goal by Alex Morgan. However, breaking down the Reign defense proved to be a difficult task. The central defensive partnership of Lauren Barnes and Alana Cook continues to develop, with the firepower Orlando has up front that was essential. Even though the Pride got some chances as the half progressed, it was not until the 67th minute that they got their first corner.

Both coaches have depth in the attack, and Marta came on in the 2nd half for Orlando with the Reign sending on Angelina and Tziarra King in a match she did not have Megan Rapinoe available for.

The three nil first half scoreline would hold up, and that was how the match would finish.

The three points push the OL Reign closer to not just a playoff spot or a home game, but a bye week. The standings do remain close and a derby rematch with Portland is coming up Saturday.

Orlando remains solidly in the playoff picture, sitting fifth as of the end of the match, but that would mean a road trip in the wild card quarterfinal round.

BOX

2021 NWSL Regular Season
OL Reign (11-7-2, 35 points) 3-0 Orlando Pride (7-6-7, 28 points)
Date/Time: Sunday, September 26, 2021, 4:00 p.m. PT
Location: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Washington
Weather: 63, Scattered Showers

Scoring Summary

RGN: Balcer – 3’, Le Sommer – 28’, 32’
ORL: None

Discipline

RGN: None
ORL: Taylor (Caution – 30’), Turner (Caution – 62’), Riley (Caution – 73’)

Lineups

RGN: GK Bouhaddi, D McNabb, D Cook, D Barnes ©, D Huerta, M Quinn, M Fishlock (Weatherholt 87’), M Lavelle (Cruz 88’), F Le Sommer (King 76’), F Marozsán (Angelina 71’), F Balcer (Pruitt 88’)
Unused substitutes: GK Tullis-Joyce, D Hiatt, D Cox, D Celia

Total Shots: 21 (Le Sommer – 6)
Shots on Goal: 8 (Balcer, Le Sommer – 2)
Fouls: 8 (Le Sommer – 3)
Offsides: 3 (Balcer – 2)
Corner Kicks: 5
Saves: 3 (Bouhaddi – 3)

ORL: GK Harris, D Turner, D Krieger, D Riley (Tymrak 79’), M Petersen, M Jonsdottir, M Dougherty Howard (Viggiano 46’), M Kornieck (Marta 58’), M Taylor (McClernon 46’), F Leroux, F Morgan
Unused substitutes: GK Wilson, M Roberts, D Pressley, F Kim, D Strom

Total Shots: 11 (Leroux, Morgan – 4)
Shots on Goal: 3 (Morgan – 2)
Fouls: 11 (Morgan – 3)
Offsides: 1 (Morgan – 1)
Corner Kicks: 2
Saves: 5 (Harris – 5)

Officials
Referee: Malik Badawi
Assistant Referees: Katarzyna Wasiak, Melissa Beck

OL Reign 2 Thorns FC 1 – Report for 8/29/21 Lumen Field Match Photo Gallery from Vanya

OL Reign 2

Portland Thorns FC 1

NWSL Regular Season

Lumen Field – Seattle, WA

OL Reign hosted Cascadia neighbor Portland Thorns FC at Seattle’s Lumen Field on Sunday as part of a derby double header with the MLS Clubs. The visiting Thorns entered the match top of the table, while the surging Reign have recently played themselves into the playoff part of the standings.

The early going was very much the visitors on their front foot. The Thorns created a number of dangerous challenges, with Christine Sinclair getting a 6th minute shot that went just over the bar. Portland was not able to get through early, something both clubs have been good at.

In the 16th minute, Megan Rapinoe got a clear look on goal and drove a low right footed shot into the goal, giving the home side a lead after they weathered the initial pressure.

Much of the first half continued at a brisk pace, as both full strength sides traded attacks. Portland moved to slow the pace as the interval approached.

A handball call against the Thorns was converted at the spot by Rapinoe, giving her a brace in back to back matches and the home side a two goal lead.

It looked like that lead would hold going into the interval, but Angela Salem got a right footed long range volley through traffic and into the goal during stoppage time. Suddenly, it was 2-1 going into the half.

With both sides at basically full strength, the second half was a tense and physical affair.

Now having played several matches with her new club, Rose Lavelle asserted herself much more into the attack, taking on Thorns defenders and making several dangerous runs.

The score line remained at 2-1 moving into the final fifteen minutes. Not for lack of attacking. Rapinoe nearly had her hat trick with a header in the 60th. Morgan Weaver broke through in the 80th, but Sarah Bouhaddi came up with the save.

The attendance figure of 27,278 is an NWSL record. Said Rapinoe, “We deserve to play in a bigger stadium. We deserve to play in this stadium.”

BOX SCORE

RGN: Rapinoe – 16’, 40’
POR: Salem – 45+4’

Discipline
RGN: Huerta (Caution – 2’), McNabb (Caution – 45+4’), Angelina (Caution – 87’)
POR: Kuikkua (Caution – 91’)

Lineups

RGN: GK Bouhaddi, D McNabb, D Cook, D Barnes ©, D Huerta, M Quinn, M Fishlock, M Lavelle, F Le Sommer (Cox 92’), F Marozsán (Angelina 87’), F Rapinoe (Balcer 83’)
Unused substitutes: GK Tullis-Joyce, D Brooks, M Weatherholt, D Hammond, M Cruz, D Celia

Total Shots: 15 (Rapinoe – 7)
Shots on Goal: 3 (Rapinoe – 2)
Fouls: 9 (Lavelle – 4)
Offsides: 0
Corner Kicks: 4
Saves: 5 (Bouhaddi – 5)

POR: GK Bixby, D Westphal (Pogarch 63’), D Sauerbrunn, D Menges (Hubly 46’), D Kuikka, M Salem, M Horan, M Rodriguez (Weaver 46’), F Smith, F Sinclair ©, F Dunn
Unused substitutes: M Ryan, M Moultrie, F Everett, D Nally, D Betford, GK Hogan

Total Shots: 19 (Smith – 6)
Shots on Goal: 6 (Smith – 2)
Fouls: 10 (Kuikka – 3)
Offsides: 4 (Dunn – 2)
Corner Kicks: 6
Saves: 2 (Bixby – 2)

Officials
Referee: Jon Freemon
Assistant Referees: Deleana Quan, Walter Heatherly

Photo Gallery: Portland Thorns 1:2 OL Reign, Lumen Field, Seattle, WA

45 Years Ago and now on Sunday

This is Jeff of the GoalieGuys. 45 years ago my family attended the Sounders v Timbers 1976 NASL opener at this site in the former building. I was 8. Geoff Hurst scored the only goal in extra time.

This coming Sunday is a double header of the modern Sounders and Timbers with the NWSL OL Reign and Portland Thorns making it a Cascadia doubleheader.

OL Reign reset begins as Laura Harvey retakes the reins

OL Reign reset begins as Laura Harvey retakes the reins.

Laura Harvey took Seattle Reign FC to two NWSL Shields and Two NWSL Championship matches in her first run with what is now OL Reign.

She coached the startup Reign club for five seasons, leading it from a sluggish start to a club that challenged for trophies.  At the end of the 2017 season, she left to pursue other options.  Her shock departure from the club, still then in Seattle and with a loaded roster of talent, was a move that led her to another startup in Utah and international coaching opportunity.  The club had moved on, but much of a veteran core remained in place.  

When the Reign coaching position became open recently, Harvey was not immediately commented on as a likely return to the club.  Yet, after a couple short weeks under the helm of her former assistant Sam Laity, Harvey takes back a club full of promise, but lacking in points and success on the season.

The Reign have used the word “Bold” in much of their media and promotional materials throughout their existence. In bringing back Harvey, with a core of veterans and international talent and much of a season to play, this could very well end up being the case.

Although in 9th place in the standings as of taking charge after Laity’s final interim match, the actual gap in the standings from 4th to 9th is 6 points. There is a great cluster in the middle of the standings and a few three point results could quickly make up the ground.

Coach Harvey has commented about being a different coach and the journey she has gone on since leaving the club.  There is a real chance to right the ship this season should a winning run of even a few matches move the club up the standings.  With returning Olympians and the talent on hand, the job is not so much a rebuild as a reset. 

Reports are the contract is for 2021 through 2023.

Sam Laity to Replace Farid Bentisti as OL Reign HC

From the team’s press release.

TACOMA, WA (July 2, 2021) – OL Reign today announced that Farid Benstiti has resigned his position as head coach of the club with immediate effect. Assistant coach Sam Laity, who has been with the club since its inaugural season in 2013, will serve as interim head coach, beginning with tonight’s match in Houston against the Dash.

“We are appreciative of Farid’s many contributions to the club over the past 18 months and wish him the best in all his future endeavors,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore. “We have great respect for Farid’s talents and all he brought to the organization, but in our recent conversations there was a collective agreement that new leadership was required to achieve the performances and results needed to satisfy our ambitions.”

Benstiti was hired by OL Reign in January 2020 and led the club through twenty matches across four competitions, including the Challenge Cups in 2020 and 2021, the 2020 Fall Series, and the first seven matches of the 2021 NWSL Regular Season. Benstiti’s record during his tenure was 6 wins, 9 losses and 5 draws, including last Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Gotham FC.