[Jeff is having some struggles with his account, so I’m posting for him – Vanya. This should be under his byline. No idea why WordPress is giving us fits.]
OL Reign 3
Club America Femenil 1
February 25, 2023
Starfire Stadium – Tukwila, WA
Club International Friendly
It was a beautiful, albeit frozen, Pacific Northwest February evening and OL Reign hosted new partner Club America Femenil in a club international friendly in the cozy confines of Starfire Stadium.
For the host Reign it was also a first chance to get on the pitch against a professional opponent since the disappointment of the semifinal loss to Kansas City Current that ended their 2022 run. An offseason training move to Starfire has placed the club back training on the site of the inaugural season 2013 grounds. Hosting matches like this club international friendly could become a semi-regular occurrence moving forward.
The hosts pressed early, going for the opening goal. Bethany Balcer got an early break in on goal, but the Club America defense held off the initial attacks.
In the 11th minute Tziarra King got a pretty touch with a left footed volley on the fly into the America net to give the Reign their first goal. The goal was a solid combination of cross from Veronica Latsko to King’s finish; with King hitting a clean touch just over the reach of the keeper into the net.
Both supporters groups in the announced crowd of 2666 were in good form, bringing a rocking atmosphere to the small Starfire Stadium set up.
America would regroup from the goal and in the 29th minute, as a series of shots had the Reign defense working to cover as two shots hit the crossbar and left goalpost in brief succession.
The match went into the half at two nil. A first half stoppage time own goal suddenly doubled the lead just seconds before the whistle. Bethany Balcer broke down the left side and send a well timed long thru ball that took an unfortunate deflection off the CAF defender and past the CAF keeper into the net.
Reign Coach Laura Harvey shifted out half of her starters at the interval, bringing on five replacements. Jess Fishlock was one of the players that entered the match at the half and immediately broke through past the defense to create a scoring chance. The starting eleven and a number of the players that entered at the half looks to be a likely rotation Seattle fans can expect to see during the World Cup in the summer.
The 74th minute was finally the breakthrough for Club America. Kiana Palacios slotted a ball past the Reign defense and cut the lead to 2-1, adding late drama to the proceedings.
Non-roster invitee McKenzie Weinert capped the evening off in the 89th minute, driving a left footed shot past into the net and making the most of an opportunity in the later stages to get minutes. The 3-1 scoreline would turn out to be the final score, in what was a pretty entertaining match.
Club America is in its regular season and showed the ability to create dangerous moments. The own goal just prior to the half altered the trajectory of the match, but getting the goal back in the second half to cut the lead showed their class.
Much of the roster moves and preseason for the Reign seems to have given focus to the period of time when seven or eight regular starters for the Reign are likely to be gone for an extended period. As all NWSL clubs face choices on what to do roster wise for the matches during that period, the Reign’s approach has been to utilize the early training camp period to simulate much of that part of the season up front. The Reign will miss starters on all three lines with Huerta, Rapinoe, Quinn, Huitema, Cook, Lavelle, and Sonnett all in line to be representing the USA and Canada. Having veterans like Lu Barnes, Jess Fishlock, Bethany Balcer, and Tziarra King available to build around sets OL Reign up pretty well for the international absences.
There were a number of big moves in the offseason around the league. The Reign did move to bring in Emily Sonnett and recently signed Brazilian Luany, but much of the clubs moves this offseason were in retaining and extending contracts and building on the Huitema deal midseason 2022.
OL Reign used the match to get all three of its keepers minutes. Regular starter Phallon Tullis-Joyce took the first forty-five. Laurel Ivory and Claudia Dickey split the minutes in the second half, with Dickey coming on in the 75th after the Palacios goal.
2023 International Preseason Friendly
OL Reign 3-1 Club América
Date/Time: Saturday, February 25, 2023, 7:30 p.m. PT
Location: Starfire Stadium, Tukwila, Washington
Weather: 38, light wind
RGN: King (Latsko) – 11’, Weinert – 90’
AME: Own goal – 45+1’, Palacios – 74’
Referee: Karen Callado
Assistant Referee 1: Kate Wasiak
Assistant Referee 2: Baboucarr Jallow
4th Official: Kelsey Harms
Photography by Lee Pake and Vanya Tucherov