MLS Cup Final – Crew defeat Sounders FC 3-0

(Duplicate post of ProstAmerika article as is normal practice for when covering Sounders FC, although this was virtual coverage.)

Seattle Sounders FC 0

Columbus Crew SC 3

MLS Cup Final

December 12, 2020

MAPFRE Stadium – Columbus, OH

Columbus Crew SC hosted Seattle Sounders FC Saturday night in at MAPFRE Stadium in the 2020 MLS Cup Final.

The 2020 final is the third appearance for MLS founding club Columbus, having won the title in 2008.  For Seattle, it is a chance at a repeat, a third title, in their fourth appearance over the past five seasons.

Subplots and history have dominated the conversations in recent days leading into the match. With Seattle at virtually full strength, the late pandemic related suspensions of top Columbus players is likely the subplot that had the most direct chance of affecting the match.

The two clubs have met in a final before, with the Sounders beating the Crew in the 2010 US Open Cup Final in Seattle.  But, the history between the two clubs predates Seattle’s actual first match in MLS in 2009 with the drama over the departure of Sigi Scmid from the Crew to become the MLS Sounders’ first head coach.  Schmid’s passing in 2018 adds an additional somber element as both clubs had great success with him at the helm.  To have been able to have Sigi possibly in attendance at the match would have been a great moment for the clubs, supporters of both, and the league.

Crew coach Caleb Porter was at the helm of Portland Timbers when they defeated Columbus for the cup in 2015 in Columbus.  Porter’s tense relationship with the Sounders through the Cascadia rivalry is apparently now in the past as Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer has commented about them attending licensing courses together.  Supporters may still feel differently.

Columbus looked to close out MAPFRE Stadium on the highest of notes.  A win would end their tenure in what has been possibly the most important building in US soccer history.  Without the stadium, the trajectory of MLS would have been a different story as it proved the proper sized soccer specific stadium was essential to the league not merely surviving but thriving.  With the numerous important matches played in the stadium, it is not hyperbole to state its importance.

The opening half was mostly Columbus on their front foot.  Seattle keeper Stefan Frei was called on a number of times early, coming up big and keeping the match level.  The Crew managed to put Seattle on the chase, creating chances, and only facing the counter on a handful of occasions. Seattle’s counter did get Jordan Morris forward down the left flank a few times, but the crosses didn’t lead to real chances on goal.

The constant pressure would pay off for the Crew.  The initial goal would come mid-half.  Lucas Zelarayán got a foot on a far post cross in the 25th minute and the home side was rewarded with a deserved goal and lead.

Derrick Etienne would make it two nil in the 31st.  The Crew was really rolling at this point, dominating in possession and attack. Seattle needed to get their footing and press back to attempt to cut into the lead by the half, but were unable to.  Heading into the interval the two goal margin was reflective of the way in which Columbus had controlled the match.

Seattle did not wait to make changes after the interval.  Two changes and some urgency put Seattle in position to cut into the lead early in the second half. The early second half suddenly seemed to find Seattle able to get and do something with possession. 

But, the change in game flow did not change the score line in the first part of the second half.  Columbus weathered the storm in the early going, and despite the numerous Seattle chances, the half progressed with the same two goal margin.  The Sounders had definitely found their footing in the match after the half, however, the goals remained elusive.

Given recent history and Seattle’s ability to score in short bursts, the notion that they could come back to bring it level was hardly out of the question. Seattle came close to scoring on a number of set pieces and sequences adding drama to the proceedings. 

Lucas Zelarayán put an end to the come back storyline for Seattle. His left foot drive from the top of the box beat Frei in the 82nd minute and it was just a matter of playing out the match for Columbus to host the title for the second time. 

Columbus had dominated the early going, but had also managed to finish.  The long run of Seattle pressure in the second half had not paid off with goals. 

Columbus is the 2020 MLS Cup champion, closing out the MAPFRE Stadium era with as much style as it deserved.

MLS Western Conference Final in Seattle vs Minn Utd

(Duplicate post of ProstAmerika article as is normal practice for when covering Sounders FC)

Seattle Sounders FC 3
Minnesota United FC 2
MLS Playoffs Western Conference Final
December 7, 2020
Seattle, WA – Lumen Field

Seattle Sounders FC hosted FC Minnesota United FC in the MLS Playoffs Western Conference Final Monday evening. At stake, an opportunity for a spot in the MLS Cup Final against Columbus in Ohio on Saturday December 12.

Due to the unique scheduling necessary this season, it was the first meeting of the two sides in 2020. The last previous meeting being a 1-0 Seattle victory on Decision Day over a year ago at the end of the 2019 season. Seattle was 5-0-1 against the Loons going into the match, with this being the first postseason match between the two clubs.

For the visitors, it was a chance to progress to their first final since joining the league in 2017 in just their second postseason appearance.

A win for the home side and would mean a fourth final in five seasons, an opportunity to repeat and defend their 2019 title, and a shot at a third Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.

Neither Western Conference side could host the final with Columbus defeating New England on Sunday.

The match also marked the return of Sounders legend Osvaldo Alonso to Seattle, albeit a different sort of homecoming given the empty stands. Alonso led his side out to what in another time would have been an amazing spectacle.

And Ozzie made his presence felt early with a strong tackle. A brisk overall pace of play on a crisp but clear Seattle December night meant the action went end to end. Seattle looked to exploit Jordan Morris on the left flank with several long runs in the early going. Morris’ deep runs led to several low and dangerous crosses that put pressure on the Minnesota defense throughout the first half.

Raul Ruidiaz was heavily marked on the Seattle attack, fighting off some tight man marking to have any chance at the numerous attempts to target him. He would have to fight for every opening against the tight marking, and that would come back later to haunt him

The visitors did more than absorb and counter in the first third of the match, but definitely were willing to push the Sounders back line with through balls and their speed.

And then Minnesota broke through in the 29th with a goal on a long set piece by Emanuel Reynoso. Reynoso’s shot over the Seattle wall dipped to Frei’s left and into the goal for the lead. With the Minnesota defense holding off the Seattle crossing attack, the visitors took a one nil lead into the interval.

Seattle looked like it had leveled early on in the second half on a 53rd minute goal from Ruidiaz. Minnesota argued that he had fouled to break free, and the goal was reversed on VAR. Seattle continued to press, but the team defense United played in their own defensive third was a pretty tough nut to crack. The Sounders could get the ball in, but the numbers were very often against them with the commitment Minnesota showed to covering lanes and blocking through balls and shots. The final stats reflecting the team defense in that they blocked 12 Seattle shots throughout the match.

A second set piece goal from the Loons in the 67th minute put the defending champs on their heels. Bakaye Dibassy got his head on the Reynoso service and suddenly it looked like Minnesota was a team of destiny.

Will Bruin came on following the second United goal. Within minutes he had halved the Minnesota lead, slotting a right foot shot home after a deflection. The final 15 minutes suddenly looked more interesting again.

Seattle pleaded for another VAR review minutes after cutting the lead when it appeared Christian Roldan was possibly fouled near the top of the box, but their pleas led to nothing.

Somehow the Sounders got it done. Seattle drew level in the 89th minute. Ruidiaz somehow found himself unmarked on the far post off of a Lodeiro corner and his right footed shot a minute prior to stoppage time meant extra time was on the menu. The wild momentum swings throughout the second half were not done.

Seattle found a third and the winner in the 3rd minute of stoppage. Gustav Svensson headed in to the far post off of another Lodeiro corner and the comeback was complete.

The storyline somehow had completely changed in a matter of minutes. Where Seattle’s run to another final looked over and Minnesota looked ready to ascend to their first, suddenly it was the Sounders celebrating in the center of the pitch. It is hard not to view this match mostly in terms of the final minutes and the comeback/letdown of the 89th minute equalizer and stoppage time goal. In the end, that is the story and what will be remembered.

Minnesota had played a smart match for the bulk of the 90 minutes, frustrating the Sounders offense throughout with tight marking, clogging their lanes, and getting in front of shot after shot. One man is left unmarked in the 89th minute and a late substitute gets to a corner in stoppage time and the conversation shifts to what might have been.

Minnesota has built a solid side in just a few short seasons, getting to the playoffs now a couple years running and to the MLS is Back semifinals this summer. To be in this position as such a young franchise is something noteworthy. It will be an interesting storyline in 2021 to see how the club reacts to the lingering taste of being so close only to lose so dramatically.

Seattle now heads to Ohio with a chance to add another banner to the rafters of Lumen Field. For Brian Schmetzer and his club, it is a fourth final in five seasons and another shot at glory on Saturday.

Kicker photo by Jeff Lageson

MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal in Seattle vs FC Dallas

(Duplicate post of ProstAmerika article as is normal practice for when covering Sounders FC)

Seattle Sounders FC 1

FC Dallas 0

MLS Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal

December 1, 2020

Seattle, WA – Lumen Field

Seattle Sounders FC hosted FC Dallas in the MLS PLayoffs Western Conference Semifinals Tuesday evening. At stake, an opportunity to play the winner of the Thursday evening match between Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United for a spot in the MLS Cup Final.

Due to the unique scheduling necessary for the pandemic altered season, it was the first meeting of the two sides in 2020. The last previous meeting being a 4-3 extra time playoff match over a year ago in October 2019.

Any questions as to whether it would be a match of Seattle pressing and Dallas hanging back to absorb were put to rest in the early going as both sides pushed in the early going for a quick goal. The early end to end action did not produce an immediate goal, but it did set the tone for the match tempo. Despite the quick pace, neither side had many clear chances on goal in the early going. Much of this was a product of both sides matching the other with energy, and the rest from consistent physical play.

The matching commitment carried through to the interval. Despite each side managing a few opportunities, neither was able to break down the other. The goal free first half was not without drama, as the hosts called for a VAR review of a deflection off of a Dallas defender that was waved off. Dallas made it difficult for the Seattle defense to easily play the ball back out of its own defensive third. A half in which neither side records a shot on goal would seem uninteresting, but this not the case.

Shane O’Neill came through for Sounders FC early in the second half, converting a header off of a Lodeiro corner to break the stalemate. For O’Neill, it was a rare goal, having not scored in six years. The assist from Lodeiro was a league record sixth consecutive playoff match with an assist. Afterwards, O’Neill reflected on the import of the set piece in a match with so few opportunities on goal. “They did a really good job, if we’re being honest, it was a tight affair. So I think it was frustrating, but it was just one of those days where we just had to stay solid and keep believing in our defensive abilities and I think honestly I think that’s the thing I’m most happy with after tonight.”

A few minutes later, when substitute Michael Barrios hit the woodwork, the visitors had their chance to level come achingly close and Seattle had evaded giving up the quick equalizer.

“We were better on one play, a set piece we worked on in training. That’s the storyline really.” Brian Schmetzer remarked after the match. A hard fought match that turned on a single set piece in a single elimination format would be enough. The O’Neill header was one of only two of Seattle’s fourteen shots to be on goal against the Dallas defense.

The loss ends the 2020 season for FC Dallas.

The Sounders now have the chance to advance to the MLS Cup Final for the fourth time in five seasons after notching their 14th consecutive home playoff win.

Seattle moves on to face the winner of Thursday’s other conference semifinal on Monday December 7. Should Sporting win, the match is in Kansas City, if Minnesota, then Seattle gets to remain at home for at least one more match.

Photo by Jeff Lageson

MLS Cup Playoffs Round One in Seattle vs LAFC

  • Duplicate post of ProstAmerika article as is normal practice for when covering Sounders FC

Seattle Sounders FC 3
Los Angeles Football Club 1
MLS Cup Playoffs – Round One
Lumen Field – Seattle, WA
November 24, 2020

The first round of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs was completed Tuesday night in Seattle when the host Sounders FC took on LAFC. The first round matchup was a rematch of the 2019 conference final, won by Seattle. The 2020 single elimination format playoffs adding another layer of intensity.

Seattle entered the match as reasonably full strength as can be for this time of the season. There was a pandemic positive this week announced for an unknown player, but they were to field a pretty full strength starting eleven.

LAFC was missing several players due to four known positive tests, but had Carlos Vela in the line up after returning from injury just a few short weeks ago. It was a cold and rainy November night in Seattle at kickoff and as the match progressed the weather remained dreary.

Early on, the tone of the match was set. Seattle’s pressure and commitment to staying high was met with LAFC patience and a willingness to absorb and counter. The home side pressed for an early goal, but was thwarted in early attempts.

An 18th minute goal rewarded Seattle for all the possession. A Jordan Morris lay off set MVP candidate Nicolas Lodeiro up for a shielded left footed drive. Seattle looked to be in the driver’s seat early. This was clearly the Seattle plan, get on the front foot and try to stay there. Said Lodeiro, “Mentally we prepare really well for these kinds of games. We feel very comfortable at home and need to play an attacking game.”

A few minutes later, LAFC got the opportunity to bring the match quickly level with a penalty on defender Nouhou. Vela, however, struck the ball directly into Stefan Frei’s arms. The momentum swings back and forth with the goal, penalty, and miss would essentially reset the match to the earlier pattern of play. The score line would remain unchanged going into the interval as both sides continued the pattern of the early minutes with Seattle maintaining much of the possession and LA playing to counter.

LAFC adjusted coming out of the interval, creating early second half chances and putting pressure on Seattle to hold their lead. The Seattle defense was on its heels and was lucky to avoid some cards and even a sending off. After absorbing so much pressure, a chance to go up two was missed wide right by Morris. Seattle turned up the pressure, creating chances, but a crossbar and Lodeiro shot wide left kept the single goal margin in place. A tight match in the final half hour was on the plate.

Raul Ruidiaz changed the match dynamic in the 66th minute, striking the second goal for Seattle and finally giving the home side some breathing room. His MLS playoff strike rate remaining at more than a goal per playoff match in his time in the Northwest.

Jordan Morris had missed a chance to extend the lead, but that would not be an isolated chance. He said, “Especially in the second half, the game opened up. They’re so dangerous on the counter. Matching that intensity was super improvement. Everyone was working so hard defensively. They left some holes open that we were able to exploit.”

Eduard Atuesta managed to split the lead in half in the 77th minute, getting on the end of a cross and beating Frei. Even down several starters, the LAFC quality was still present and the goal reflected that. But, Seattle did not flinch, grabbing an almost immediate response as Jordan Morris got through on a Ruidiaz through pass to bring the lead back to two with ten minutes to go.

LAFC kept making it interesting. An 88th minute header by Mark-Anthony Kaye went under VAR review and was waved off, negating an even more interesting final moments. The 3-1 final score held up through the five minutes of stoppage time and Seattle eliminated LA for the second season running.

Seattle now hosts FC Dallas on Tuesday December 1st at 6:30 PST.

Afterwards, Jordan Morris noted, “We definitely had a good game plan. Really, when we’re at home we need to be on the front foot and be the dominant team. Schmetz does a great job of getting us ready.”

BOX SCORE

SCORING SUMMARY
SEA – Nicolás Lodeiro (Jordan Morris, Raúl Ruidíaz) 18’
SEA – Raúl Ruidíaz 66’
LAFC – Eduard Atuesta (Carlos Vela) 77’
SEA – Jordan Morris (Raúl Ruidíaz, Nicolás Lodeiro) 80’

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY
SEA – Nicolás Lodeiro (caution) 88’
LAFC – Mohamed El-Munir (caution) 90’+2’

Seattle Sounders FC – Stefan Frei; Alex Roldan, Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Shane O’Neill, Nouhou (Román Torres 90’+1’); Cristian Roldan, João Paulo, Joevin Jones (Brad Smith 70’), Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris (Jordy Delem 90’); Raúl Ruidíaz – Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Miguel Ibarra, Josh Atencio, Ethan Dobbelaere, Will Bruin, Jimmy Medranda

Total shots: 13 (Morris, 4)
Shots on goal: 3 (Three players, 1)
Fouls: 18 (Three players, 3)
Offside: 2 (Morris/Ruidíaz, 1)
Corner-kicks: 4 (Lodeiro, 4)
Saves: 3 (Frei, 3)

Los Angeles FC – Pablo Sisniega; Eddie Segura, Jesus David Murillo, Tristan Blackmon, Jordan Harvey (Mohamed El-Munir 56’); Latif Blessing, Eduard Atuesta, Mark-Anthony Kaye; Carlos Vela, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Kwadwo Opoku HT), Christian Torres (Adrien Perez 56’) – Substitutes not used: Kenneth Vermeer, Dejan Jakovic, Antonio Leone, Erik Duenas, Bryce Duke, Francisco Ginella

Total shots: 12 (Vela, 4)
Shots on goal: 4 (Vela, 2)
Fouls: 14 (Kaye, 3)
Offside: 2 (Kaye/Wright-Phillips, 1)
Corner-kicks: 8 (Vela, 6)
Saves: 0

“One Life” by Megan Rapinoe book review

One Life

by Megan Rapinoe

Megan Rapinoe has been a member of OL Reign since it began as Seattle Reign FC in 2013. I have been covering the club (& other things) for ProstAmerika and @GoalieGuys for the past several seasons. Megan makes herself available to the media in very generous amounts, sometimes clearly wiped out from matches. She answers questions, pretty directly, and seems to love just talking about the game. Her public profile sometimes means the questions are not directly about the game, which is why we have a big publishing house having her write this book. Megan Rapinoe is an interesting person, a person who is more than willing to take on difficult topics and take personal stances that make it tough for her to only get questions about the game.

Over the seasons I have covered her as a player I have managed to get some interesting nuggets from her about the game. She is always shooting, she says, so when some of the audacious moves she attempts look like they could be a cross or a shot, assume shot. It is precisely that risk taking that makes her valuable to club and country, as she has the skill and tactical awareness of knowing when to try something and when not.

I was first really aware of Rapinoe’s soccer IQ as I watched her stoppage time cross to Abby Wambach in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals over and over. She received the ball with a lot of space, had very little time, would only really get a single chance at it, and launched a long diagonal cross to the far post that had no margin for error. The ball was perfect.

When the Reign lost in the 2015 NWSL Championship she went before the media, and I watched a clearly exhausted player studying the stat sheet set up at the table as we were waiting to start the presser. That loss stung. It was a good team, a really good team, and they have not got back to the final since. But, she got up there and answered the questions to represent her club.

After winning the 2019 world cup, Rapinoe returned to her club and maybe played more than she was supposed to. She put forth a fantastic match against arch-rival Portland Thorns FC, nearly scoring on a chip that hit the crossbar. Demands on her time meant there was almost no turnaround and she was headed off to Milan to represent the USWNT and be named 2019 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, sharing the stage with men’s winner Leo Messi.

As a high profile LGBTQ athlete, her personal relationships have been in the public eye. Her willingness to take on social justice issues put her squarely in the sights of those who would vilify her. She has held her ground, spoken at length and with knowledge of topics, and become sought after as an interview subject. Despite international tugs on her time, she has been willing to make certain the local soccer media is also given time, even when it would be excusable to pass.

The book is Megan telling the story of how she got to this point in time, where people might be interested in her writing a book to tell her story. She is self aware of the status she has as a successful athlete, LGBTQ icon, and activist. It is clear that she knows she could choose things to be different, but that she is simply not interested in an easy and safe path of avoiding controversy. Her upbringing as a queer youth in a conservative town that eventually found herself is one so many people can relate to. This is an important story.

The seasons I have been covering the Reign covers much of the content of this book. There have been opportunities to discuss issues related to her injury recovery, national team play, and activism. Talking with her after the first match in Seattle after kneeling was powerful. Opposition team members in the NWSL were her national team teammates and they were very much also available to discuss the profound impact the protests were having.

She has taken abuse for her stances. She is also an example of strength and resilience. When some of her employers were more understanding than others, she kept to her path. The book addresses some very hard subjects head on, just like Megan to do.

As noted, a few years ago after a match I asked Megan if a ball that drifted over the cross bar was a shot or a cross. She laughed and told me, “I am always shooting.” This book is proof of that.

photos by Jeff Lageson

OL Reign – NWSL Fall Series Observations

2020 is in the books for OL Reign and the NWSL. With the summer NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah and then the NWSL Fall Series, clubs have managed to all play a number of matches and at least manage some sort of a 2020 season.

For OL Reign, the Challenge Cup was a first chance to play under Farid Benstiti’s system. The summer matches were a solid display of defense and possession, but offense was at a premium. The club managed to finish in the top half of the table and were very much a tough out. There was a good deal of reason for optimism.

The NWSL Fall Series is tougher to gauge. A significant number of players, many likely starters, were not available. Players were loaned out to clubs in Sweden, England, and France, and USWNT stalwart Megan Rapinoe chose the VOO option. Even with the absences, it was not difficult to look at the available players and put together a solid starting eleven and likely main substitutes, without even utilizing young players brought in through recent drafts or trials. That said, and even though the league put a trophy on the line, the results were not really the point of the exercise for 2020 when it comes to the big picture, or the roster would not have been depleted by the loans out.

In the end, OL Reign won one, lost two, and drew one. They were 7th in the table. Their matches were against the sides that finished top of and bottom of the table. They did not beat the top club, they did not lose to the bottom. Taken alone, this implies some mediocrity, but this is simply not the case when looking at the whole.

The two losses both were against a pretty loaded Portland side that managed to draw and convert three penalties. The away loss got away from them with the stoppage time penalty and the home match was lost to a penalty not long after equalizing. Football is cruel, and in the end those are losses, but those matches could have swung differently. Since this four match fall series was really about development, the reactions to adversity in those situations will be what is valuable.

The road draw with Utah and the home win were both interesting matches. Utah broke out to a lead at home, but the Reign were able to equalize. The home match saw OLR press early and maintain energy, holding off the Utah counter for a pretty solid end of season victory. It is the last match that seems to indicate the trajectory of the club.

Sitting at the bottom of the table with only a match to play for pride the Reign played with pride. They had energy. They showed their depth. Even with a significant amount of talent in Europe, injured, or opted out the club still started players with significant international experiences, solid league veterans, a possible national team goalkeeper, and some young players that look to have a future in the league.

In the end, that is the real lesson about OLR moving forward. They went out and went for it, playing with energy because they had a game to go win. With so much talent available, even with some upcoming potential losses to an expansion draft, the Reign look to be in good shape moving forward. A closer to full strength side finished in the top half of the Challenge Cup group phase and they went out and finished strong in the Fall Series.

There are questions. What will be the future of the national team players with the club? Who will they lose to expansion? But, for now at least, they get to enjoy looking ahead.

OL Reign v Utah Royals FC – – NWSL Fall Series Matchday 4

OL Reign 2

Utah Royals FC 0

October 17, 2020 – NWSL Fall Series (OL Reign Matchday 4)

Tacoma, WA – Cheney Stadium

OL Reign and Utah Royals FC faced off in Tacoma, WA on Saturday evening in the final match of the NWSL Fall Series for both clubs and the league.

Although both sides entered the match in the bottom two places on the table, there was more than merely avoiding the bottom involved Saturday evening. 2020 has been a journey for players, club, and the league as training camps were underway when things shut down. There was uncertainty over the merest possibility of playing matches of any kind this season. The Challenge Cup in Utah was a success. A number of real positives for the league with a new commissioner, expansion, and sponsors make the future seem bright. So, as the two bottom of the table clubs met to conclude the league season, the match represented far more resiliency and success than final placement in the standings.

With groups of fans watching from the hillside overlooking the stadium and in the parking lot, the two sides came out with pace and energy, OLR getting in on goal in the first minute and pressing for the early goal. Utah did get some counters, but also were generally stuck in their own defensive end a good portion of the early going. OLR managed to be dangerous, but the Utah defense was able to hold early. Sofia Huerta’s shot in the 24th minute finally got the match a goal.

The match would go to the interval still at one nil to the home side. Utah challenged Casey Murphy as the half progressed, forcing saves to keep the lead for OL Reign.

A 51st minute goal from outside the box by Leah Pruitt extended the OLR lead. It was Pruitt’s first goal for the club.

Utah pressed quickly for a response. In the 74th minute it appeared maybe they would grab one back before the hydration break. Tziarra King really hit one, but OLR keeper Casey Murphy fully extended to her right to push it wide and keep the two goal margin.

OLR maintained its pressure and energy throughout. Utah had chances, pushed for goals, but Murphy and the Reign defense withstood.

With the result OL Reign finish 7th in the table and Utah Royals FC in 9th.

“The victory is indicative of the work we did this week,” Benstiti said. “Last week, too. We are happy when we work very well. You’re sure it’s a good way (to do things). When you win, you are happy because you feel very professional about the job. The players did it very well. They listened to what we asked them to do, but after that they played very well. It’s not me on the field, it’s the players. I can’t tell them everything. They know what to do and when they do those things efficiently, they just have to play. They played today.”

The off-season begins quickly, an expansion draft is in a few weeks.

Match Report

Scoring Summary

RGN – Sofia Huerta (Shirley Cruz) 24’
RGN – Leah Pruitt (Bethany Balcer) 51’

Misconduct Summary

RGN – Kristen McNabb (caution) 45+8’
RGN – Jasmyne Spencer (caution) 90+1’

Lineups & Stats

RGN: GK Casey Murphy, D Madison Hammond, D Kristen McNabb, D Amber Brooks, D Steph Cox, M Dani Weatherholt, M Shirley Cruz (Sam Hiatt 79’), M Rosie White (Morgan Andrews 70’), F Leah Pruitt (Miranda Nild 79’), F Sofia Huerta, F Bethany Balcer (Jasmyne Spencer 86’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Carly Nelson, D Kimberly Hazlett
Head Coach: Farid Benstiti

Shots: 23
Shots on goal: 11
Fouls: 18
Corner kicks: 8
Saves: 5

UTA: GK Abby Smith, D Elizabeth Ball, D Taylor Leach, D Mallory Weber, D Katie Bowen, M Lo’eau LaBonta, M Taylor Lytle, M Aminata Diallo (Gaby Vincent 63’), F Tziarra King (Arielle Ship 76’), F Amy Rodriguez, F Brittany Ratcliffe (Michele Vasconcelos 66’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Melissa Lowder, D Michelle Maemone, D Madeline Nolf, F Raisa Strom-Okimoto
Head Coach: Amy LePeilBet

Shots: 10
Shots on goal: 5
Fouls: 11
Corner kicks: 2
Saves: 8

OL Reign v PDX – NWSL Fall Series Matchday 3

OL Reign 1

Portland Thorns FC 2

October, 10, 2020 – NWSL Fall Series (OL Reign Matchday 3)

Tacoma, WA – Cheney Stadium

OL Reign hosted Cascadia rival Portland Thorns FC in Tacoma on Saturday night. The match was more than merely a rivalry match, as for Portland it was an opportunity to take the Verizon Community Shield.

The final like stakes added an interesting dimension to a match being played in an empty stadium a week and a half after a Thorns thrashing of OLR in Portland. The spoiler role was possibly present, as a draw would not be enough for PTFC and would give the double to Houston Dash for 2020.

Portland pressed early. The Thorns offense is loaded with options even with Tobin Heath in England. Simone Charley was an ever present threat, eventually drawing a penalty in the 42nd. Christine Sinclair is lethal from the spot, burying the penalty. Lindsey Horan had opportunities early on multiple occasions, attacking from spots across the front line.

The late penalty was an especially bitter pill for OL Reign going into the interval. OLR had played a smart tactical defense for long stretches of the first half, clearly holding formation and shape. Even with the Portland heavy pressing and the ball being in the own end, Reign played steady, held their own to keep the match level, and took a few chances forward as the half progressed. The penalty took their ability to absorb and counter knowing the Thorns needed to win for the Community Shield and put them into a different tactical position for the early second half.

The second half got off to a quick start and the match pivoted within the first minute as OL Reign quickly pushed forward and drew a foul in the attacking third. The resulting set piece and follow up deflection by Amber Brooks tied the match in the 46th minute. For Brooks, it was a redemption moment, having been whistled for the PK earlier.

A 73rd minute Christine Sinclair penalty following a foul on Lindsey Horan swung the match back to Portland. OLR coach Farid Benstiti was cautioned after the penalty call. Brooks was called on both penalties, yet booked for neither.

With the victory, Portland moved to 10 points and clear of Houston, clinching the Verizon Community Shield for the NWSL Fall Series.

Match Report

Match: OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns FC

Date: October 10, 2020

Venue: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash.

Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. PT

Weather: 58 degrees, partly cloudy

Goals by half      1    2     Total

RGN                      0    1        1

POR                    1    1        2

Scoring Summary

POR – Christine Sinclair (penalty) 43’

RGN – Amber Brooks (Shirley Cruz) 46’

POR – Christine Sinclair (penalty) 73’

Misconduct Summary

RGN – Allie Long (caution) 40’

RGN – Farid Benstiti (caution) 72’

RGN – Dani Weatherholt (caution) 90+4’

Lineups & Stats

RGN: GK Casey Murphy, D Madison Hammond (Kimberly Hazlett 83’), D Kristen McNabb, D Amber Brooks, D Steph Cox, M Allie Long (Rosie White 89’), M Shirley Cruz (Morgan Andrews 89’), M Dani Weatherholt, F Jasmyne Spencer (Taylor Smith 67’), F Sofia Huerta, F Bethany Balcer (Leah Pruitt 83’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Carly Nelson, D Sam Hiatt

Head Coach: Farid Benstiti

Shots: 19

Shots on goal: 4

Fouls: 15

Corner kicks: 3

Saves: 8

POR: GK Britt Eckerstrom, D Christen Westphal (Kelli Hubly 86’), D Emily Menges, D Becky Sauerbrunn, D Meghan Klingenberg, M Angela Salem, M Rocky Rodriguez (Emily Ogle 90+2’), M Lindsey Horan, F Christine Sinclair, F Sophia Smith (Morgan Weaver 75’), F Simone Charley (Tyler Lussi 86’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Nadine Angerer, D Madison Pogarch, F Marissa Everett

Head Coach: Mark Parsons

Shots: 15

Shots on goal: 10

Fouls: 13

Corner kicks: 7

Saves: 3

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