Ol Reign @ PDX – NWSL Fall Series Matchday 2

OL Reign 1

Portland Thorns FC 4

September 30, 2020 – Portland, OR – Providence Park

NWSL Fall Series (OL Reign Matchday 2)

Rescheduled from Saturday September 12 due to air quality, and then delayed another two weeks for ongoing air quality, OL Reign made the trek down I5 to Portland to face Thorns FC in the first match of the NWSL Fall Series for each club. So, this match should have been OLR Fall Series matchday 1, but became 2 because of the ongoing smoke.

As a result, both clubs were the last to play their second matches, when a few clubs had already played three of the four in the September and October run.

The early going saw both clubs pressing, pushing for the early advantage. OL Reign especially seemed to be pressing high with Huerta up top.

Near the end of an increasingly physical first half, Horan found Sinclair for the first goal, then a late first half stoppage time Sinclair penalty and a two goal lead going into the interval.

Portland’s third was a beautiful left footed volley by Rocky Rodriguez a little over ten minutes into the second half and it appeared the home side would cruise.

OL Reign got one back in the 71st with a Bethany Balcer header. Instead of conceding and playing it out, OLR started pushing to make it interesting. But, the home side Thorns didn’t take long to get it back as Sinclair completed her hat trick and a 4-1 lead with 15 remaining.

The 4-1 score line was reflective of the danger of Portland’s attack when it gets going. The Thorns have attacking options and they used them, then brought the future off the bench to almost make it worse.

It is tough to compare the Summer Reign and the Fall Series OL Reign with so many players out on loan. However, the lock down defense has given up six goals in the two road matches. The low scoring offense has managed three in two matches. But, it is very much not a continuation of the midyear tournament in look and feel.

Match Report

Match: OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns FC

Date: September 30, 2020

Venue: Providence Park, Portland, Ore.

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. PT

Weather: 75 degrees, mostly sunny

Goals by half      1    2     Total

RGN                     0     1     1

POR                   2     2     4

Scoring Summary

POR – Christine Sinclair (Lindsay Horan) 40’

POR – Christine Sinclair (penalty) 45+5’

POR – Rocky Rodríguez (Simone Charley) 57’

RGN – Bethany Balcer (Shirley Cruz) 70’

POR – Christine Sinclair (Lindsey Horan) 74’

Misconduct Summary

POR – Meghan Klingenberg (caution) 35’

Lineups & Stats

RGN: GK Michelle Betos, D Steph Cox, D Kristen McNabb, D Amber Brooks, D Taylor Smith (Madison Hammond 82’), M Allie Long (Dani Weatherholt 64’), M Rosie White (Leah Pruitt 64’), M Shirley Cruz, F Bethany Balcer (Morgan Andrews 82’), F Sofia Huerta, F Jasmyne Spencer (Miranda Nild 82’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Casey Murphy, D Kimberly Hazlett

Head Coach: Farid Benstiti

Shots: 10

Shots on goal: 8

Fouls: 11

Corner kicks: 5

Saves: 4

POR: GK Britt Eckerstrom, D Christen Westphal (Madison Pogarch 53’), D Emily Menges, D Becky Sauerbrunn (Kelli Hubly 46’), D Meghan Klingenberg, M Angela Salem (Emily Ogle 84’), M Rocky Rodríguez, M Lindsey Horan, M Christine Sinclair, F Tyler Lussi (Sophia Smith 53’), F Simone Charley (Morgan Weaver 66’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Nadine Angerer, M Gabby Seiler

Head Coach: Mark Parsons

Shots: 20

Shots on goal: 8

Fouls: 10

Corner kicks: 11

Saves: 7

OL Reign @ Utah Royals FC – NWSL Fall Series Matchday 1

OL Reign 2

Utah Royals FC 2

September 26, 2020 – NWSL Fall Series (OL Reign Matchday 1)

Rio Tinto Stadium – Sandy, UT

In what should have been the second match for OL Reign in the Fall Series, the club made the trek back to Utah to face Royals FC.

With several players on loan, mostly starters, OL Reign still managed to field a line up of club and NWSL experienced players.

Utah has gone through much as an organization in recent weeks. For some sides that means a lack of preparation and distraction, and for others the game becomes a refuge. Utah scored in the 9th minute on an Aminata Diallo shot through traffic from outside the box to get the game going early.

The early third of the match up to the hydration break was played wide open. Utah grabbed a Tziarra King second and Bethany Balcer replied at the restart. Rosie White equalized shortly after. With the match at 2-2 after only 29 minutes, the low scoring of the summer tournament was quickly a thing of the past.

With the match remaining level going into the interval, both sides could reset.

The match tightened as the second half progressed. With it remaining level at the second hydration break and both sides utilizing a few subs for fresh legs, the final 15 had the potential to be interesting.

Despite attempts on each goal, the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

Match Report

Match: OL Reign vs. Utah Royals FC

Date: September 26, 2020

Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. PT

Weather: 71 degrees, mostly sunny

Goals by half      1    2     Total

RGN                    2    0      2

UTA                   2    0      2

Scoring Summary

UTA – Aminata Diallo 9’ 

UTA – Tziarra King (Brittany Ratcliffe) 22’

RGN – Bethany Balcer (Steph Cox) 23’

RGN – Rosie White (Jasmyne Spencer) 28’

Misconduct Summary

RGN – Rosie White (caution) 66’

Lineups & Stats

RGN: GK Casey Murphy, D Steph Cox, D Kristen McNabb (Madison Hammond 76’), D Amber Brooks, D Taylor Smith, M Allie Long (Dani Weatherholt 46’), M Rosie White, M Shirley Cruz (Morgan Andrews 70’), F Jasmyne Spencer (Leah Pruitt 70’), F Sofia Huerta, F Bethany Balcer

Substitutes Not Used: GK Michelle Betos, D Kimberly Hazlett

Head Coach: Farid Benstiti

Shots: 10

Shots on goal: 2

Fouls: 11

Corner kicks: 5

Saves: 6

UTA: GK Melissa Lowder, D Mallory Weber, D Kate Del Fava, D Elizabeth Ball, D Katie Bowen, M Verónica Boquete, M Aminata Diallo (Gaby Vincent 46’), M Lo’eau LaBonta, F Tziarra King, F Amy Rodriguez (Arielle Ship 64’), F Brittany Ratcliffe (Raisa Strom-Okimoto 78’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Abby Smith, D Madeline Nolf, D Taylor Leach, M Taylor Lytle

Head Coach: Amy LePeilbet

Shots: 14

Shots on goal: 8

Fouls: 9

Corner kicks: 3

Saves: 0

OL Reign NWSL Fall Series 2020 Preview

The 2020 season is not over for the NWSL after all. The NWSL Fall Series will take place from September 5 through October 17 with all nine clubs participating. (*updated to include full schedule 9-3-20)

The league is not using the single table format for this event, instead creating three pods of three teams for a short round robin format but no playoffs. Essentially, it is a chance to get some matches in during the normal period of time they would have them and they are basically friendlies. All sides get four matches, two in and out of market each. The pods make reasonable geographic sense (especially pre-expansion).

With CBS All Access and Twitch streaming available for the league, getting matches to their audience is a continuation of the successful Challenge Cup in Utah.

Many sides have seen players leave for the fall to Europe, so this is going to be another opportunity for young players to get spotlight minutes. For OL Reign it means players like Jessica Fishlock, Lauren Barnes, Darian Jenkins, Nicole Momiki, and Rebecca Quinn are out on loan for this series. Jodie Taylor departed the club for OL Lyon after the Challenge Cup. And, the status of USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe continues to be a 2020 availability question as she has voluntarily opted out.

OL Reign was a solid possession and defensive team in the Challenge Cup, but goals were at a premium. The Fall Series is an opportunity to see if the Farid Bentstiti system can now progress with the young players that will make up the majority of the roster for part two of 2020.

The Fall Series is also being done with limited travel and pods, which for a short mini-season without ticket sales is both economically and testing protocol driven. These September and October matches bring the season total for 2020 closer to a half season of league play, which is significantly more than was expected last spring. Nine matches for the Reign combined is nine more than we thought would happen at one point.

OL Reign returned to training middle August. The roster, other than the loans and Taylor, is largely that which took the field in Utah. The biggest concern for Benstiti will likely be replacing Lauren Barnes in the defense, with her loan being announced shortly prior to the Fall Series announcement. Bethany Balcer will look to be the focal point of the offense. Both keepers showed they are starting quality in Utah, so that is not a concern. The midfield will need USWNT veteran Allie Long to find her best midfield partner, likely Shirley Cruz. Players like Sofia Huerta, Kristen McNabb, and Morgan Andrews will need to be steady performers for the OL Reign possession game to turn into goals.

The first match is September 12 at rival Portland Thorns FC. In the end, OL Reign will play nine matches in 2020 (barring anything interesting like a trip to France or extra exhibitions that seem really unlikely at this stage) with three of them each against Portland and Utah, and matches against Sky Blue, Chicago, and Houston earlier in the Summer.

OL Reign Fall Series Schedule

Portland Thorns FC vs. OL Reign – Providence Park – Saturday, September 12, 12:30 p.m. PT – CBS and CBS All Access

Utah Royals FC vs. OL Reign – Rio Tinto Stadium – Saturday, September 26, 12:30 p.m. PT – CBS All Access 

OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns FC – Cheney Stadium – Saturday, October 10, 5:00 p.m. PT – Twitch 

OL Reign vs. Utah Royals FC – Cheney Stadium – Saturday, October 17, 5:00 p.m. PT – CBS All Access 

Breaking down a goal from a Rose

OL Reign announced on August 16th an audacious move of a future draft pick and significant allocation money to grab the rights to Rose Lavelle from Washington Spirit. The audacious part is that Lavelle and her rights will not be heading immediately to Tacoma for a return to playing in Cascadia. OLR has chosen to roll the dice a bit, as it is possible Lavelle thrives and enjoys what appears to be playing in Manchester for City. Should she make a prolonged stay in England, OLR will have rolled the dice and lost a resource. The payoff would be fantastic for a player in her middle 20s who has already scored a game killer in a world cup final.

Summer of 2019 was the validation moment for Rose Lavelle, as she took on the Holland defense by herself and put the USWNT up two goals late in the final. The body language on both sides after the goal said it all. But, let’s look at that goal.


Rose Lavelle on the attack. A look back at the second goal of the 2019 WWC final match between USWNT and Holland in France. This is simultaneously an amazing individual effort and a team attack.

The play begins with a defensive stop in midfield by Crystal Dunn. Quickly US mid Samantha Mewis securess the ball and another US mid Rose Lavelle comes back to receive in the circle. Julie Ertz is in the center of the field behind the play and was an option and then tracks forward. From here, Lavelle attacks immediately and three offensive players begin runs.  Megan Rainoe on her far left on one wing and staying wide.

Tobin Heath is on her far right and also staying wide to continue the switching of fields maybe. Alex Morgan goes inside to begin a run in behind the central defenders but is a bit quick and holds up to get onside.  Lavelle has a defender trailing her immediately.  THREE dutch defenders all start tracking back because oh shit it is Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, and Alex Morgan making runs.  Lavelle makes a nice move at pace going directly at the defense, realizes the defenders are utterly hosed, jukes a smidge and cranks a left footed shot the keeper sees a moment too late because the one defender on Rose partially shields the play. 

Suddenly it is late in the match and two nil. World champs not too long after.

The US had a single goal lead and the game was getting into the late stages. Another goal here likely kills it off. The risk of a counter and draw was very real as Holland was a very good side and capable of scoring quickly. A case could be made that had Lavelle chosen, she could also have slowed and had both Ertz and Mewis tracking to reset to. I am taking the slow and reset the play as an option off the table from the start, because that was a counter attack the moment Dunn made the tackle and Mewis gathered the loose ball. The only slowing down of this play would have come from the Dutch deciding to foul her hard or to have had Lavelle take a poor touch.

Looking to the left flank option, Pinoe was wide and briefly showed and could have received a pass and then served in something dangerous. The US has had success with this kind of ball movement, but Pinoe almost immediately realizes the ball is not coming and begins to track downfield.

Morgan had to stop her run. There was a moment that if Lavelle had released it early Morgan might have had a chance on goal, but the passing lane is poor for that move and so Morgan holds up, which also slows one of the defenders for a step as she has to still account for her. The defender that stays near Morgan is late on the shot a moment later, and not by much.

The right flank would have fully switched the ball to Heath. Heath would likely have driven deep, attempted a move, and driven the ball across to the wave of attackers that was building up at that point. Not a terrible option, as Heath on the ball with a head of steam and defenders having to track the entire US attack would have been a good move.

I for one, think Rose had go to goal on her mind from the start. Had the defenders held up or tried to stop her the ball would have gone to either flank to Pinoe or Heath and the Dutch were equally effed as the attack would have continues. Morgan was too close and would likely have been offside if the ball went to her and so the wide play either side would have made sense.

Watching the play, I see Mewis hold off the challenge after getting the ball Dunn tackled and Lavelle showing to receive the ball as the attack first option. Getting the ball in the middle of the field with a couple steps to get a head of steam is the worst thing the Dutch could have happen with a player live Lavelle. Given her field sense, she knew all of her options, saw the defense recoiling, and once she does the little step over to spin a defender she was going for it.

This sequence is a few seconds. The field and tactical shift the US collectively does in those few seconds across their mid and forward lines was on a pivot.

Rose Lavelle could be doing this to NWSL defenses in Tacoma in the near future if the OLR dice roll pays off. She will do well in Manchester, but that move feels more like circumstantial to 2020 and 2021 and being in form while getting an experience in her middle 20s as much as anything else.

How this plays out will be interesting.

** Rose did in fact announce her one year deal with Manchester City on August 18.

A look back – OL Reign in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup

The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup in the the books.

The group phase for the OL Reign saw players return from injury, new players make debuts, and a core of the 2019 side provide the core of the line up.

The statistics from the group phase highlight just how some questions were answered, but many more were still pending entering the quarterfinals. Three clean sheets showcased a bend but not break defense with two goalkeepers splitting time. The win, loss, and two draws gave the team five points and third in the table. Third place would be a playoff spot in a full season.

Entering the fourth match, the side was the top possession team, but only scored a single goal in stoppage time of match three. Match four then saw the team mostly sit back and absorb against a Portland side that had to win to avoid finishing winless and the eighth seed.

The quarterfinal finally saw Jessica Fishlock start, going almost 70 minutes until being replaced by Bethany Balcer. A goalless draw would lead to a negative result in penalties as two Reign shots missed the mark and Chicago converted all.

Five matches is a decent sample size to know that OL Reign is definitely on a good track in regards to their defense, possession, and depth. It is tough to gauge the specific value of a missing Megan Rapinoe, but the club only managed a stoppage time goal in their third match. Scoring was a problem.

Four clean sheets are great as it is tough to lose when the other team never seems to score either. If not for the penalty result that would make the Reign a one win, one loss, three draw side, and minus one on goal difference.

The stats though and the results are probably not as important big picture. The Reign developed as the tourney progressed. The new coach and system seemed suited to the personnel they have. The young players are good. The veterans bring class and stability. They placed third in the group phase in a short sample, but it would not be a stretch to see that play out over 24 matches in a full season.

Moving forward, it could be months or 2021 before the club plays another competitive match. The 2020 season was over so quickly.

OL Reign NWSL Challenge Cup Quarterfinal vs Chicago Red Stars

(#3) OL Reign 0 (3)

(#6) Chicago Red Stars 0 (4)

(Chicago Red Stars advance on penalties)

NWSL Challenge Cup (quarterfinal)

July 18, 2020

Zions Bank Stadium – Herriman, UT

After finishing 1-1-2 with 5 points and the 3rd seed, OL Reign enter the NWSL Challenge Cup quarterfinals still searching for an identity on offense, and with a bend but rarely break defense.

Chicago Red Stars completed the group phase in a log jam of 1-2-1 4 point teams, placing them into the 6th seed. Injuries and roster management played a role in the group phase, but Chicago has plenty of experience and talent to potentially make a run in a short tournament that seems much more wide open after Portland upset North Carolina.

Both sides were missing national team starters due to injury at kickoff. But, both sides also fielded starting elevens with significant big tournament elimination match experience.

With the tournament phase beginning with the quarterfinals, the line ups were as close to a preferred eleven as could be.

Early play found OL Reign continuing to absorb and counter, with Chicago willing to press forward to try and get the early goal. By the time of the first hydration break however, Reign had managed to spend some time in the Chicago defensive third and create some chances, with Jessica Fishlock nearly scoring on a right footed shot.

Much like all of the quarterfinals, the match went to the interval scoreless. Would it also go to penalties or not was to be determined.

Similar to the first half, Chicago came out attacking early in the second half before Reign began to assert itself and push opportunities forward.

Many matches in the NWSL Challenge Cup have turned on the use and timing of the five available substitutes. Unlike most matches, neither coach made a halftime or early second half substitutions. The sole goal scorer in the group phase for OLR Bethany Balcer finally entered the match in place of Fishlock in the 67th. Both coaches then began and continued to sub in attacking options, not playing for penalties.

With the match remaining scoreless at the second half hydration break the notion of a single goal or penalties determining who would advance became increasingly likely.

Late chances didn’t pan out. Players were down with cramps. The five matches in a short time span in the heat and elevation had to have been factors in the quarterfinals. Regulation was a goalless draw and the cruelty of penalties were to decide.

Chicago was perfect in its four spot kicks with OL Reign missing on two, giving Red Stars the opportunity to play Sky Blue FC in the semifinals.

With this match in the books, Chicago joined the Portland Thorns FC, Houston Dash, and Sky Blue FC in the semis on Wednesday.

Seattle Sounders FC match 2 in MLS is Back vs FCD (postponed)

This is where I would have posted about the July 15 early AM match between Seattle Sounders FC and FC Dallas in Orlando at the MLS is Back tournament. I had set up the posts in the system to be able to run all of the work I am doing for these distance soccer tourneys. With this particular event cancelled and Chicago being shifted to play Seattle yesterday, it was not on me to cover that match.

Unfortunately, FCD was forced to withdraw from the tourney due to a number of positive tests. We are reminded that so much of this is not even close to being over and there is no margin for error in bubbles.

Best wishes to everyone affected by the situation.

The Goalie Guys hope everyone comes through this healthy and recovers.

OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC Cascadia derby goalless draw (at a neutral site)

OL Reign 0

Portland Thorns FC 0

NWSL Challenge Cup

July 13, 2020

In what could prove to be the only Seattle/Tacoma versus Portland Cascadia derby of 2020 for either the women or the men, OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC finished out the group phase of the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah on monday.

The final match day of of the NWSL Challenge Cup group phase found the league’s biggest rivalry taking center stage. OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC played the early match, a match supporters had circled on their calendars from the moment the schedules were determined and announced.

Match day four for OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC was filled with story lines. Portland needed a win to avoid being the only winless side in group play with three points could avoid the 8 seed and a quarterfinal match up with North Carolina. A draw would keep Portland at the 8 seed. OL Reign could jump as high as the 2 seed with a big win, a draw could leave them in the middle somewhere, or drop to the 8 seed themselves with a bad enough loss.

The opening third was mostly the Thorns on the attack, with Reign absorbing the challenges and looking to counter. Going into the first hydration break scoreless served the Reign, as Portland needed to be the aggressor to get out of the tournament cellar.

The Thorns created chances, but were not able to break through in the early stages. Going into the match, OL Reign had actually been the statistically best possession team in the tournament, but seemed willing to take what the match was giving them as Portland pushed forward consistently.

The Reign lost Bethany Balcer late in the first half, coming off in the 39th minute. Balcer has been a constant in this tournament, coming off of her ROY season. First half stoppage time saw the Reign create a couple of late dangerous chances and a chance to take a surprising lead. The nil nil scoreline at the interval meant the second forty-five would likely be dramatic and affect the tournament seeding and quarterfinal match ups.

Substitutes would play a significant role in the final third as the match remained level. OL Reign swapped in fresh legs on the offense, sticking with their veteran defenders down the stretch of the match. Jessica Fishlock came on for the first time in a year late in the match. In the end, they did not get the late goal and grab the three, but a fifth point in the standings still moves them up in the ladder.

Portland controlled long stretches of the match, statistically and in keeping OL Reign pressured and stuck in their own defensive end. All those chances simply never paid off for the Thorns, ending the group phase in the 8th seed and without a win. Should the Thorns offense find the net, they could still be a dangerous opponent for the Courage and cause havoc in the tournament.


Match: OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns FC
Date: July 13, 2020
Venue: Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah
Kickoff: 9:30 a.m. PT
Weather: 85 degrees, partly cloudy

Scoring Summary:

Misconduct Summary:

Lineups & Stats:

RGN: GK Michelle Betos, D Steph Cox, D Lauren Barnes, D Amber Brooks, D Celia Jiménez Delgado (Adrienne Jordan 73’), M Allie Long (Nicole Momiki 58’), M Rebecca Quinn, M Dani Weatherholt, F Bethany Balcer (Taylor Smith 40’), F Jodie Taylor (Jess Fishlock 73’), F Sofia Huerta (Darian Jenkins 58’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Casey Murphy, GK Carly Nelson, D Alana Cook, D Machaela George, D Madison Hammond, D Kristen McNabb, M Shirley Cruz, M Rosie White, F Mariah Lee, F Jasmyne Spencer
Head Coach: Farid Benstiti

Shots: 9
Shots on goal: 3
Fouls: 6
Corner kicks: 2
Saves: 4

POR: GK Bella Bixby, D Meghan Klingenberg, D Katherine Reynolds (Autumn Smithers 79’), D Christen Westphal (Madison Pogarch 90+2’), D Kelli Hubley, M Celeste Boureille, M Rocky Rodriguez, M Angela Salem (Gabby Seiler 79’), F Christine Sinclair, F Morgan Weaver (Marissa Everett 90+2’), F Simone Charley (Tyler Lussi 65’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Britt Eckerstrom, D Meghan Nally, M Emily Ogle, F Anika Rodriguez
Head Coach: Mark Parsons

Shots: 13
Shots on goal: 4
Fouls: 8
Corner kicks: 5
Saves: 3

Seattle Sounders FC vs San Jose Earthquakes in MLS is Back opener

Seattle Sounders FC 0

San Jose Earthquakes 0

MLS is Back

July 10, 2020

Seattle Sounders FC and San Jose Earthquakes returned to the pitch in the MLS is Back Tournament on Friday night in Orlando. A rivalry that dates back to NASL matches in 1974 and has included epic US Open Cup matches prior Seattle joining MLS in 2009 was renewed in the quarantine bubble in an empty stadium to a home only audience.

With both sides facing live opposition for the first time in four months and having to acclimate to the Florida weather leading in, match fitness and substitution patterns would likely play a roll in the match.

San Jose brought steady man marking pressure to the first thirdhe of the match, forcing Seattle to attempt to play through with limited ability to get numbers forward. Sounders FC still managed a few dangerous chances early, but the Earthquakes controlled the flow of play going into the first hydration break. The story moving forward into the interval would be whether Seattle could break the pressure and take control or if the pace of play would be controlled by San Jose.

Going into the interval goalless was surprising given the amount of possession from San Jose throughout the first forty-five. However, it was a continuation of the trend of the first MLS is Back Tournament matches all being level and scoreless at the half.

The pace of play altered to slower early in the second half, as the short return to training window and Florida climate began to play a role. Once substitutes began to enter, and the line up shifts followed, a very different final third would emerge. Weathering the first sixty minutes meant Seattle had the opportunity to find their legs as the San Jose pressure slowed. Moving to near the middle of the second half cramps in players began to cause stoppages, as the Florida climate acclimation continued to be a factor.

The final stretch of the match would either see late heroics or a goalless stalemate and a point to both sides. The pace of the early stages faded down the stretch, as bot clubs continued to look to chances, but not attacking in big numbers or with nearly the energy of the first third.

Nether side took significant risks in stoppage time, poking forward, but the notion of a point in the first match back and clean sheets seemingly something to build on after slogging through this first match.

And with the final whistle, the single point each was what both teams got.