OL Reign toppled by Chicago Red Stars
After their success against Kansas City a week ago (2-0), the OL Reign players met the Chicago Red Stars for their tenth game of the NWSL season. On June 23rd in Tacoma, they managed to win against this same team (2-0). The objective was to repeat this. To do so, they could count on the presence of Sarah Bouhaddi, whose suspension, after a debatable red card the last game, was cancelled on appeal.
A good start allowed them to get a first chance in the 4th minute. After good work by Eugénie Le Sommer on the left side, and then a relay from Sofia Huerta, Bethany Balcer just missed the goal when she tried to divert the ball at the near post. But she wouldn't have to wait long to find the net.
Bethany Balcer follows up
In the 12th minute, Balcer found himself on the receiving end of Celia's cross from the right wing and made no mistake in getting ahead of her opponents in the box. After her brace against Kansas, Balcer again led the way for her team. Moments later, she left the field for treatment on an injury to her left foot (17'). But the striker was more shook-up than hurt, and she was soon back on the pitch.
Defensively well set up with an imperious Alana Cook, and offensively strong with a heavily involved Dzsenifer Marozsan, OL Reign controlled the contest in the first half-hour. It was not until the 35th minute that Sarah Bouhaddi made her first save from a shot by Kealia Ohai Watt. Vanessa DiBernardo then tried her luck against the French goalkeeper, but her shot went just over.
As the half wore on, the Red Stars' revival did not particularly worry Sam Laity, who continues to act as interim coach until Laura Harvey's arrival. In the 45th minute, Tziarra King came close to scoring, but her powerful shot from a corner on the right was saved at the last minute. Reign ended the first half with a commanding lead.
A catastrophic scenario!
Unfortunately, Chicago had a stroke of luck to get back into the game almost as soon as the half-time interval ended. Mallory Pugh was found on the left side of the box and her cross was deflected by Celia, the ball going over a helpless Sarah Bouhaddi (48'). OL Reign had to do it all over again against a team that had been revitalized by this equalizer.
And to make matters worse, Alana Cook unintentionally deflected a Mallory Pugh corner into her own goal in the 55th minute! In 10 short minutes, Chicago had turned the tide and forced OL Reign to chase the score. And the third goal almost arrived when Vanessa DiBernardo hit the left-hand post with a shot (58').
Sam Laity replaced Bethany Balcer with Leah Pruitt and Eugénie Le Sommer with Kelcie Hedge to get his team back on track as the hour mark approached. But following a poor touch, the lively Mallory Pugh gave Sarah Bouhaddi no chance, scoring her team's third goal in the 64th minute. A catastrophic scenario, which was very hard to accept for Reign.
The subs tried to help mount a comeback, and were soon joined by Madison Hammond, who replaced Celia in the 73rd minute. But against a team high in confidence, they had all the difficulties of the world when trying to approach the opposite goal. In the 83rd minute Tziarra King was replaced by Shirley Cruz, while Red Stars hero Mallory Pugh came out to a round of applause, replaced by Alyssa Mautz.
Despite a beautiful acrobatic effort by Dzsenifer Marozsan late on, well held by Cassie Miller, the end of the game did not change anything on the scoreboard and OL Reign suffered their sixth defeat of the season. It was a bitter loss as the team was unlucky at the beginning of the second half. The next test for Sarah Bouhaddi and her team-mates: next Sunday in Orlando.
Chicago Red Stars: Miller, Wright, Sharples, Gorden, Milazzo, Birna, Killion (Colaprico 46'), Hill (Johnson 77'), DiBernardo, Pugh (Mautz 83'), Watt (Stanton 87').
OL Reign: Bouhaddi, Barnes, Hiatt (Brooks 46'), Cook, Celia (Hammond 73'), Fishlock, Marozsan, Huerta, Le Sommer (Hedge 60'), King (Cruz 83'), Balcer (Pruitt 60').