OL Reign: A convincing draw to start (0-0)
The OL Reign are back in action in the NWSL! Playing at Tacoma Stadium, their home park, the American franchise of Olympique Lyonnais went toe-to-toe with a side with serious aspirations for the championship: the North Carolina Courage, winner of the league in 2018 and 2019.
It was a match that started without the usual period of observation since the visiting team launched an attack as soon as the 2nd minute as Solaun headed a Pickett corner against the crossbar before the next quarter of an hour was well managed by Ol Reign, possession being closer to even.
More incisive as the minutes minutes ticked by, Farid Benseti's players had their first opportunities through the Welsh international Jess Fishlock. She first took a free kick that flashed over the bar (21st), before adding a cross that deserved a better finish (32') and then shooting herself, seeing her effort well-saved by Murphy, the North Carolina goalkeeper (33'). The latter was also almost narrowly beaten on a header by here captain, Abby Erceg, after some rigorous pressing on the part of OL Reign.
Rapinoe, inspired play off the bench
Under the Tacoma sun, both teams further intensified the fight in second half. Facing her former team, the attacker Leah Pruitt tried her luck twice (49', 62') and Karen Bardsley had to intervene against Kristen Hamilton (56').
The breakthrough looked to have potentially been coming from Megan Rapinoe, who came on just before the hour. After recovering the ball, she played in Fishlock for an off-center effort (64th), before setting up Pruitt (74') and having her own powerful shot crash against the post (69'), serving notice of her return to the competition.
The lines stretched and the opportunities for goals were multiplying. On a break, Fishlock tried to beat Murphy to open the scoring (76') before Bardsley kept out on a powerful Hamilton effort strike from the penalty spot (78').
Despite a high level of intensity and plenty of opportunities, both teams would have to settle for a draw. But even before arrivals of the Lyonnaises Eugénie Le Sommer, Sarah Bouhaddi and Dzsenifer Marozsán, Ol Reign's players showed an ambitious side to their game. On May 24 at midnight (French time), they will head south to face another of the NWSL's big sides, Portland Thorns FC.
OL Reign: Bardsley – Celia (Brooks, 24'), McNabb, Hammond, Barnes (cap.) - Weatherholt, Fishlock – Huerta, White (Balcer, 46'), King (Rapinoe, 57') – Pruitt (Angelina, 86')
NC Courage: Murphy – Mathias, Erceg (cap.), Kurtz, Pickett – O’Sullivan, Debinha, Solaun (Ratcliffe, 77') – McDonald, Mace (Roccaro, 77'), Hamilton