NWSL CHALLENGE CUP: OL REIGN/KANSAS CITY
To finish the Challenge Cup, Farid Benstiti played his side in a 4-2-3-1, starting the young American Tziarra King. After delivering a strong performance against the Chicago Red Stars, the young American started on the left wing in place of Megan Rapinoe. The American, absent for this last match, will continue to prepare for the regular season.
Shirley Cruz played in central midfield, with Quinn and Jess Fishlock as a 10. Sofia Huerta and Leah Pruitt started on the right flank and at center forward, these two players having played regularly during this NWSL.
In defense things were different again, for the fourth straight match, with Madison Hammond and the versatile Celia Jimenez having played every game as Farid Benstiti continues to look for the right formula.
The start of the match was challenging for the defense, especially in building play and in the communication between the center backs. In the 6th minute, after losing the ball, the opponents' counterattack was quick to destabilize the Reign's defense. Kansas forward Mallory Weber would receive the ball on the left wing, and after a bit of skill to beat Hammond, she cut inside to put the ball in Karen Bardsley's top corner.
The Reign players then took the game to their opponents, reacting in the 15th minute with a cross to the back post from Lauren Barnes for Shirley Cruz, who managed to beat her defender. It wasn't enough to beat Barnhart, though, and the Kansas City goalie tipped it behind for a corner. Sofia Huerta took it, aiming for the head of Celia Jiménez who could not get her shot on target for the equalizer.
But the Reign were in the game, dominating and creating chances.
A few errors in passing from the Reign did lead to rapid counter-attacks from Kansas City who often managed to find themselves in front of goal. In the 21st minute came a strong chance from Kansas City, but Amy Rodriguez couldn't find the target.
In the 33rd minute, Tziarra King managed to control the ball in the box and push forward before being fouled as the referee called for a penalty.
It was Jess Fishlock to take against Barnhart and she beat the goalie perfectly, pulling the ball left.
At the end of the half, the tricky American winger Amy Rodriguez then had two chances but the score remained 1-all at half-time.
The Reign got off to a good start in the second half, trying to build from the back and then get forward with pace. In the 54th minute, Leah Pruitt, with her back to goal, played in Fishlock who tried to lob Barnhart -- it wasn't enough to find the net but the Reign remained dangerous.
OL continued to attack through Leah Pruitt. The attacker would shoot several times and even hit the bar but the score was still 1-1 until the 84th minute and a corner obtained after a shot by Bethany Balcer, who had come on in place of Tziarra King in the 70th minute. On a corner, the ball was badly cleared and came back to Lauren Barnes who crossed to the far post, coming to Celia Jiménez who managed to lob the Kansas City goalie with a perfect header and give OL Reign the lead.
The score of 1-2 for the visitors would not change and OL Reign had a second consecutive victory in the NWSL Challenge Cup. They finished second in their division behind the Portland Thorns.
Farid Benstiti’s players managed to come back and win, showing a lot of character against this Kansas City team.