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.
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
RGN: Le Sommer – 3’
WASH: Rodman – 12’, Sanchez – 68’
RGN: Rapinoe (Caution – 88’), Watt – (Caution – 89’)
WASH: O’Hara (Caution – 61’)
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)
Referee: Matthew Franz
Assistant Referees: Alicia Messer, Brooke Mayo