Getting to Know...OL Reign
Head coach: The Frenchman Farid Benstiti
Fun facts: Their previous head coach was Vlatko Andonovski, who is now head coach of the USWNT. Their logo and club colours were changed during off-season because the organisation behind the French club Olympique Lyonnais became their major owner.
2019 record: During the 2019 season, OL Reign (then still called Reign FC) came 4th, finishing 2 points behind third-place Portland Thorns. Their goal difference was exactly 0: 27 goals were scored, and 27 conceded. They lost the play-off semi-final 4-1 against the North Carolina Courage.
National team. players:
Megan Rapinoe: the controversial forward with her signature pink hair, who has an outspoken meaning on several topics such as feminism, racism and politics. She is OL Reign’s current top scorer with 37 goals and co-owner of the brand re-Inc, which was set up after the Womens’ World Cup ’19. Farid Benstiti announced that Rapinoe isn’t playing due to her concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Allie Long: a midfielder who scored 3 goals during the 2019 season. She was part of an exchange trade between the Portland Thorns and Reign FC in 2018.
Other international players: Rebecca Quinn (Canada), Jodie Taylor (England), Jess Fishlock (Wales), Yuka Momiki (Japan), Shirley Cruz (Costa Rica) and Rosie White (New Zealand)
Players you should know:
Jess Fishlock, a Welsh midfielder who is the current 3rd all-time top scorer for the club, and if she scores 4 times during the tournament, she’ll have passed the number 2, the Scottish Kim Little.
Alana Cook, who is on loan to OL Reign from the French club Paris Saint-Germain. The young defender got called up for the USWNT for the first time in October 2019.
Changes in off-season:
Dani Weatherholt (previous club: Orlando Pride) for the team’s natural second-round draft pick for the 2021 draft.
Julia Ashley (Adelaide United)
Amber Brooks (Adelaide United)
Sofia Huerta (Sydney FC)
Shirley Cruz (Paris Saint-Germain)
Yuka Momiki (Nippon TV Beleza)
Adrienne Jordan (Birmingham City)
Kelcie Hedge (Santa Clara University, 9th overall pick)
Sam Hiatt (Stanford University, 33d overall pick)
Meg Brandt (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 34th overall pick)
Shirley Cruz from Costa Rica
Yuka Momiki from Japan (has both a US and a Japanese citizenship but plays for the Japan WNT)
Rosie White from New Zealand
Jess Fishlock from Wales
Rebecca Quinn from Canada
Jodie Taylor from England
Departures and injuries:
Lydia Williams to Melbourne City
Shea Groom and Megan Oyster have been traded to Houston Dash for a conditional second-round 2022 draft pick, Amber Brooks and Sofia Huerta
Steph Catley, on loan to Melbourne City
Bev Yanes, the 4th top scorer of OL Reign, retired from the NWSL and went to the California Storm, a WPSL club
Ifeoma Onumonu to Sky Blue FC, in exchange for Julia Ashley, who sadly can’t play because of a back injury
Theresa Eslund returned to her home country, Denmark, to Brøndby IF
Celia went out on loan to Perth Glory
Leah Pruitt is out due to a knee injury
Strengths: I think OL Reign’s strengths are that they have a lot of experienced players who have competed in the competition for a long time already but also a lot of new, young players, who might bring something refreshing to the team.
Biggest question mark: OL Reign just got a new coach, which makes everything a bit different. We don’t know yet what he’s planning to do with the team because there weren’t any pre-season games played. Besides that, captain Rapinoe doesn’t play and I assume this will affect the team in some way, both mentally and physically.
Preliminary round match-ups:
How fair was their draw?
Sky Blue FC, Houston Dash and Utah Royals are the teams OL Reign will be facing. I don’t think any of these teams will be a really tough opponent, seen as all three of them ended at least 2 places under Reign in the 2019 season, but after all, it’s still football... you never know.
OL Reign – Sky Blue FC
Their last 3 games didn’t give a clear picture of how big the difference between the two teams is: one was won by OL Reign, one was tied and one was won by Sky Blue FC. I assume OL Reign will win this game though, seen as Sky Blue FC finished 8th (out of 9) in the NWSL last year and OL Reign 4th.
Houston Dash – OL Reign
Houston Dash is a strong team, but I think OL Reign will win this game too. The last two times these clubs faced each other, the game ended 1-1, but the game before those two was won by OL Reign. The Houston Dash finished 7th last season.
Utah Royals – OL Reign
I think this is going to be the hardest game for OL Reign. Utah Royals ended 6th last year and although Press isn’t playing, Rapinoe isn’t playing either, so both teams miss out on one of their star players. Both teams won one of the last 2 games when they faced each other, and both with 2 goals difference. I think this is going to be a very interesting game. The Royals finished 6th last year.
I expect OL Reign to finish 4th, just like last year. I think they have a strong team with lots of class players, but I assume it doesn’t really help when your star player and captain doesn’t play.
By Emmy van Ingen
Photo Credit: Nikki Flores @ Footy Day Photos