OL Reign 0
Sky Blue FC 0
June 30, 2020
NWSL Challenge Cup
OL Reign and Sky Blue FC played match four of the NWSL Challenge cup Tuesday evening in Utah, completing the first set of matches so that all eight participating clubs now have one match in the books.
There were eventful off-seasons for both clubs. Sky Blue made great strides, even if not with all of the results, in 2019. Other off-season moves were in the quality of club business and the adding of players such as McCall Zerboni. The expectations in New Jersey are for a club on an upswing.
OL Reign re-branded a second consecutive off-season; changed ownership and coaching, and had some key players move on. 2020 also finds a number of players returning from injury and joining the club via trades and international signings.
A nearly statistical dead heat in shots and possession in a scoreless first half does not necessarily tell the story. OL Reign had the first truly dangerous chance on goal with Kristen McNabb’s long range shot forcing a save. Near the half Sky Blue forward Naho Kawasumi got through close range but a sliding Lauren Barnes blocked the shot or it could easily not have been goalless at the half.
Still, it was a first match for both sides and the timing was off enough to stop a number of attacks. For OL Reign, attacking down the left flank from McNabb to Darian Jenkins created a number of dangerous opportunities in the first half.
Chances continued for both in the second half and subs like Jasmine Spencer affected the match. Spencer had two dangerous chances with a breakaway in the 85th and blocking the keeper moments later, but to no avail. A dangerous 71st minute strike by Eddy of Sky Blue challenged Murphy.
Both coaches went with a veteran presence in the midfield with Zerboni and OL Reign’s Allie Long, veteran strikers, and goalkeepers with international futures. Jessica Fishlock is still to make her 2020 debut. It is reasonable to expect significant line up changes these first few matches as minutes are spread out and combinations sorted.
After the match OL Reign defender Lauren Barnes said, “I think we can continue to be hard to beat, like we were today. I think we gave Sky Blue too many chances. They’re a good side, but we need to be a little bit stronger and a little bit cleaner in our play.
A goalless draw does no harm in the sense each side grabs a point and knows its defense can withstand pressure, but the attack for both sides will need to use the next three group phase matches if moving forward in the elimination round is to happen.
Match: OL Reign vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: June 30, 2020
Venue: Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah
Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. MT
Weather: 72 degrees, clear and sunny
RGN – Alana Cook (caution) 59’
Lineups & Stats
RGN: GK Casey Murphy, D Kristen McNabb, D Lauren Barnes, D Alana Cook, D Stephanie Cox (Nicole Momiki 75’), M Rebecca Quinn, M Allie Long, M Shirley Cruz (Rosie White 75’), F Darian Jenkins, F Jodie Taylor (Jasmyne Spencer 75’), F Bethany Balcer (Taylor Smith 57’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Michelle Betos, GK Carly Nelson, D Amber Brooks, D Machaela George, D Madison Hammond, D Celia Jiménez Delgado, D Adrienne Jordan, M Morgan Andrews, M Kelcie Hedge, M Dani Weatherholt, F Mariah Lee
Head Coach: Farid Benstiti
Shots on goal: 4
Corner kicks: 6
NJ: GK Kailen Sheridan, D Margaret Purce (Erica Skroski 77’), D Sabrina Flores, D Gina Lewandowski, D Estelle Johnson, M Domi Richardson (Jennifer Cudjoe 60’), M Sarah Woldmoe, M McCall Zerboni, F Paige Monaghan (Elizabeth Eddy 46’), F Ifeoma Onumonu (Evelyne Viens 77’) , F Nahomi Kawasumi
Substitutes Not Used: GK Didi Haracic, GK Megan Hinz, GK Amanda McGlynn, D Mandy Freeman, D Kaleigh Riehl, D Chantelle Swaby, M Cassidy Benintente, M Nicole Baxter, M Kenie Wright, F Imani Dorsey
Head Coach: Freya Coombe
Shots ton goal: 2
Corner kicks: 4