Preview: OL Reign (a).
Sunday September 26 4 p.m. PT, 7 p.m. ET and midnight BST (27/9).
Where? Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, WA.
How can I catch the action? The game will be available on Twitch for both domestic and international supporters.
I'm so grateful to have the Orlando Pride back in my life. It's been a long couple of weeks. As the Orlando City train slowly starts to derail, the Orlando Pride have gone from strength to strength. It looks likely that our international contingent will return relatively unscathed too. The Pride could be back to something like full strength for the run in. Not quite for this game, but we're not gonna be far off.
As such this promises to be a contest full of intrigue, as two of the league's highflyers butt heads. Laura Harvey's team continue to enjoy a late season uptick in form, having gone unbeaten in their last 5 (including their recent 'win' over the Spirit). Their recent good form has carried them up to 2nd in the table, 6 points further back from Portland (although OL Reign has played a game more). The Pride, meanwhile, have won 2 of their last 3 and should have some integral performers back in their arsenal...
OL Reign's style
OL Reign are interesting side. They are quite direct, though I don't mean that in a 'lump it long circa English football in the 1970's' kind of way. There's this bizarre paradox in soccer that when you talk about a team being direct, that people instantly 'think route 1'. I think such narratives do a disservice to teams like OL Tacoma Seattle Reign, or whatever they're called now. I jest. OL Reign like to get the ball into the box, but they are far from a 'kick and rush' side.
OL Reign often set up in a 4-3-3 formation, and like to get the ball wide and supply crosses into the box. Which makes sense when you have players like Eugenie Le Sommer and Bethany Balcer in your ranks, both have strong conversion rates this season; Balcer 25.8% and Le Sommer 9.7%. in their most recent match against Racing Louisville (obviously their 'win' over the Spirit doesn't count), OL Reign hit 17 crosses (figure 1). Overall they've hit 192 crosses on the season so far, with 38 being successful; which is a 19.79% success rate. It's an effective strategy, and it's working for this club.
They also have a tremendous amount of quality in the middle of the park, particularly with Jess Fishlock and Rose Lavelle in their side. Fishlock has completed 77.6% of her 630 passes this season. Similarly, Lavelle has completed 76.8% of 228 passes. With Fshlock and Lavelle spraying the ball wide to the likes of Sofia Huerta, it's easy to imagine why they get quality balls into the area and have a lot of joy with it.
Figure 1 shows OL Reign's cross positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Jess Fishlock's passing percentage statistics on the season so far.
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According to the NWSL injury report, OL Reign have no injury concerns aside from that of Megan Rapinoe, who is a doubt. Rose Lavelle has been away with the USWNT, whilst Dzsenifer Marozsán, Jess Fishlock, Jimena Lopez, Shirley Cruz have all been involved with their respective national squads. No official confirmation at the time of writing, but I'd expect them all to be involved.
As for the Orlando Pride, Ashlyn Harris remains a doubt with that neck injury, and Jade Moore is expected to miss out. Viviana Villacorta remains on the season ending injury list.
Possible starting XI
Assuming everyone is available for selection, it'll be a strong side that Laura Harvey fields, in that familiar 4-3-3 system:
Part of me hopes the USWNT stars don't make it back for this game. I know that would deprive us of Alex Morgan, but it'd also deprive OL Reign of Rose Lavelle. Lavelle is an absolute baller. There's no other way to say it. Things may not have worked out for her at Manchester City, but the WSL's loss is the NWSL's gain. She hasn't had a whole lot of NWSL game time this year, having only played 6 games. She starred at the 2019 FIFA World Cup, with 3 goals and an assist.
OL Reign currently sit 2nd in the table, with a 10-2-7 record. They are unbeaten in their last 5 (including their default win over the Spirit).
Orlando, meanwhile, are currently 7-7-5 and are sat 4th in the table. Orlando have won 2 of their last 3 games.
*All statistics courtesy of nwslsoccer.com
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