OL Reign beat the San Diego Wave 1-0 on Sunday on a diving header from Rose Lavelle. The first half was slow from both sides but the Reign managed to gain some momentum after halftime, culminating in the Lavelle goal. Both sides certainly have things to take away from this match. Let’s talk about four of them:
1. Sofia Huerta
Sofia Huerta has been steadily gaining steam since the Challenge Cup. She appeared dangerous throughout the game, inexplicably popping up in empty space to cross the ball. Huerta was consistently on point even though the majority of the chances she created could not be finished by the Reign attackers. Huerta’s efforts finally paid off in the 75th minute, when she arced a free kick directly to the forehead of Rose Lavelle. Huerta is proving to be a more consistent offensive engine than many of her attack-minded teammates.
2. Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee
Amirah Ali was the most exciting player on the pitch for San Diego by far. Her entrance in the 62nd minute breathed new life into the stale Wave attack. The 69th minute saw her cause pandemonium in the Reign box, forcing a scrambling Phallon Tullis-Joyce to make a diving save. It was perhaps the only time Tullis-Joyce looked frazzled in the entire match. Wave Head Coach Casey Stoney should consider either bringing Ali on earlier in matches or simply starting her more often. It may make the Wave a bit less foamy.
3. Are the Reign Cursed?
Even though Reign got the only goal of the match, they had several chances handed to them on a platter to make the game at least 2-0 or 3-0. The most obvious example of this is Tziarra King’s perfect run past Kaleigh Riehl and subsequent missed shot in the 87th minute. She had Sheridan beat; she could have waited even a half second more and lined up her shot perfectly. There were several other chances the Reign could have easily scored had they taken their time and focused. This begs the question: are the Reign cursed to miss the easiest chances?
4. Chained to the Rhythm
San Diego’s performance in this match could be summarized in one word: predictable. It appeared their primary offensive idea was to get the ball to Alex Morgan and pray she would be able to make some magic happen. Their secondary idea was to run through the center of the park in an attempt to overload the midfield. Unfortunately, the Reign’s defense was too disciplined to allow either of these plans to come to fruition. When they did manage to get into the Reign box, they did nothing to make Phallon Tullis-Joyce sweat. Amirah Ali’s introduction in the second half was a step in the right direction, but if San Diego wants to keep their number one spot in the standings, they’re going to have to get creative.
The Reign need to finish their chances if they want to win against star goalscorer Mallory Pugh and the Chicago Red Stars in their next match on June 4. Luckily for them, fan favorite Kim Little will be making her return to her former club on June 18. Will Little be able to make a big impact going forward?
San Diego has the chance to experiment when they play against last-place Kansas City Current on June 4. Can Casey Stoney, a coach notorious for focusing on defense, get creative in offense?