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Recap: Washington Spirit lean on their defense in a 0-0 draw with OL Reign

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a point

NWSL: Washington Spirit at OL Reign Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

In their third meeting this month the Washington Spirit make it ten matches in a row unbeaten against OL Reign, courtesy of a 0-0 draw. Although the match was heavily dominated by intense midfield pressure by the Reign which negated a lot of the Spirit’s typical buildup play, the hosts weren’t able to capitalize with a goal.

Both teams also came into the match with an imbalance in rest, with the Spirit having played Portland Thorns midweek and while the Reign’s most recent match was nine days ago. Washington started the match with a good early chance as Trinity Rodman pounced on a loose touch from Lauren Barnes. Rodman had time to pick out a cross and sent one toward Ashley Hatch that fizzed a foot too high. Chances for the Spirit would then come few and very far between.

Seven minutes later OL Reign fashion their best chance as Alana Cook took possession after a turnover from Rodman, spraying a ball wide right to Veronica Latsko darting into space. Latsko controlled the ball but Sam Staab recovered well enough to force a long range shot that was high over the bar.

In the 14th minute Sofia Huerta uses some clever footwork to work an opening versus Camryn Biegalski and sent a cross into the box. Bethany Balcer rose highest and won it but her connection sent it over the bar. It was a sign of how quick Reign can strike even when danger doesn’t appear immediately imminent.

Reign’s approach to the match has mirrored the tactic used versus the Spirit in the Challenge Cup semifinal. Reign’s primary objective is to keep the Spirit in front of them and being selective about their moments to spring forward, but still never committing too many numbers.

Huerta again sends a dangerous cross in, this time it’s to Jess Fishlock who chests the ball down but fires her volley wide. After a few minutes spell form Reign, the Spirit are able to regain some control of the ball and pass it around the hosts 18-yard box for a bit but couldn’t carve out a chance.

The Spirit struggled to play through Reign’s alignment. Midfielders were being forced backwards and wide players pinned to the sideline. Spirit tried a couple long balls to cope, but have yet to solve the problem with passes feet or space.

Reign continued to camp in the Spirit’s half and worked a couple chances that were easily dealt with for corners. Aubrey Kingsbury had to be alert to swat away a couple good balls toward goal.

In the 34th minute Rodman hit a perfect lobbed pass with her left foot into the path of Sanchez, whose first touch seemed to set her up perfectly for a shot but Alana Cook recovered to make a vital block.

The best chance of the half came from the Reign, who once again held possession in the Spirit’s half and worked a good shooting opportunity for Latsko who hits the bar.

The Spirit come close to working a chance right before the halftime whistle as Hatch latches onto a loose ball, turns her defender and sprints up the right wing. Sanchez was making a central run and does well to curl her run to gain control of the cross before it exited the box on the far side. She laid it off to Julia Roddar at the top of the box but Rose Lavelle recovered quickly to take possession.

The half expired with the teams knotted at 0-0.

Megan Rapinoe entered the match after halftime, taking the place of Angelina as the Reign look to try to capitalize on the chances they’re creating. In the first minute it nearly pays dividends as Pinoe rockets a shot from the top of the box that Kingsbury pushes high and eventually behind.

In the 49th minute Latsko gets free into the box again and again blazes her shot high over the bar.

The Spirit carved out a couple chances to get the ball forward after turning the Reign over in midfield. However, the passing in the final third lets them down and the opportunities pass without a shot on goal.

Just after the half hour mark the Spirit welcome two familiar faces back into the XI as Kelley O’Hara replaces Anna Heilferty at right back and Andi Sullivan steps into midfield for Taylor Aylmer. Before that Reign swapped Veronica Latsko for Ally Watt, who immediately got behind the Spirit back line a couple times.

Hatch continued to play after a head-to-head collision with Quinn in the first half, but walks off the pitch with the trainer in the 67th minute. New draftee signing Maddie Elwell entered the match for Hatch in the 69th minute.

Ally Watt gets behind again after Rose Lavelle sends a ball cross pitch to get the forward in on goal. Kingsbury makes herself big and is able to block the shot with a sprawling leg.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Watt gets in behind again, this time after being played in behind following a Spirit corner. Biegalski does a good job of trying to get close and a slightly heavy touch forces Watt to take a shot deeper than she might have wanted and it’s directly at Kingsbury, who holds the shot.

Rookie Tinaya Alexander crafts the Spirit’s best chance of the match after she’s able to collect possession in the box, evade a defender and take a rip at goal. The shot had plenty of power but was neither side of Tullis-Joyce, who is able to stop and smother the would-be opening goal.

The Amber Brooks + Andi Sullivan midfield has given the Spirit their best spells of possession and forward play all match. The pair’s close control and tight turns spin Reign defenders out of position and open up passing lanes that the Spirit couldn’t find the majority of the match. As a result, Alexander gets a chance to dribble into the box but only has Sanchez for company with multiple Reign defenders between them. In the end her shot is blocked without much concern.


Box Score

NWSL Regular Season

OL Reign -

Washington Spirit -

Lineups:

Reign (4231): Tullis-Joyce; Barnes (C), Hiatt, Cook, Huerta; Quinn (Miramontez, 87’), Fishlock; Angelina (Rapinoe, 45’; King, 87’), Lavelle (Van der Jagt, 71’), Latsko (Watt, 61’); Balcer (Stanton, 90+7’)

Washington (4231): Kingsbury (C); Biegalski, Staab, Sonnett, Heilferty (O’Hara, 62’); Roddar (Brooks, 77’), Aylmer (Sullivan, 62’); Hatch (Elwell, 69’) Feist (Alexander, 70’), Rodman (Harding, 77’); Sanchez

Bookings:

Reign - Van der Jagt (74’)

Spirit - Rodman (71’)