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Match Forecast: OL Reign Faces the Houston Dash

July 3, 2020 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) - OL Reign News Release

OL Reign continues the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday, July 4 when it faces the Houston Dash at 7:00 p.m. PT. Houston also drew its first match of the tournament, conceding late to settle for a 3-3 draw against Utah on Tuesday, June 30.

"With the first match out of the way, I think some of the restlessness is gone from the team," OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti said. "The second game is always easier. After you play a real match, you become familiar with each other. Our defense was good in the first game, now I want for us to be more efficient in front of goal."

Last Match: 0-0 Draw vs. Sky Blue FC

OL Reign opened the tournament with a scoreless draw against Sky Blue FC on Tuesday, June 30. The club out-shot Sky Blue 13-8, but had all four shots on target saved by Kailen Sheridan. OL Reign centerback Lauren Barnes was named the Budweiser Woman of the Match for her defensive effort that included eight recoveries and two blocked shots that helped the club keep Sky Blue off the board.

"For my first game, when you're in another country you don't know what might happen," Benstiti said. "But I think the first game for my team and I, it's different because a lot of our players have a lot of experience in the league. It's not a bad (result). I think this game is positive. We wanted to be strong. We were strong. We wanted to try to play collectively. I think we did it. Maybe there was 15 minutes of stress, but after it was good. I think for my first time in the NWSL it's really positive."

The match also marked the club debuts of Alana Cook, Nicole Momiki, Shirley Cruz and Taylor Smith, the latter making her first appearance after signing with the club last March while recovering from an ACL tear. The game also saw the return of Jasmyne Spencer, who played her first competitive minutes after suffering a season-ending injury in the 2019 season opener.

""It was so fun to get back on the pitch," Spencer said. "My heart is still racing. I think I was so excited, anxious and nervous all in one, but I had a blast."

Speaking of Spencer...

Spencer found ways besides training to focus her energy while recovering from her energy. The forward also spent some of her newfound free time renewing her efforts on Jas It Up Sports, a sustainable, ethically-sourced clothing line that she launched in 2017 while playing for the Orlando Pride.

The collection, which includes items made from recycled materials, has a portion of its profits go to programs that help benefit children from disadvantaged communities. Spencer said the inspiration to keep her clothing sustainable comes from her lifetime interest in environmental stewardship.

"It's difficult," Spencer said. "I didn't realize how much you need to be accountable for. I'm lucky, because I'm coming from a background where I wanted to make sure I was doing good for the planet, but for your average owner, particularly in the fashion industry, you don't really know. It's not really out there how detrimental the practices are for the environment. I understand why for bigger brands it might be difficult to backtrack, set these environmental standards in place and then move forward from there. I absolutely think it can be and needs to be done. Brands like Patagonia have been doing it. For me, starting small and understanding what I needed to do to be sustainable- not only on an eco-friendly level- but also on a people level, making sure that anyone I employ or outsource work to is working under ethical conditions and getting fair wages, I think it's been really enlightening and rewarding to know the product I'm putting on the market is helping both people and the planet. The whole process has been interesting and rewarding."

Scouting Houston

OL Reign was 1-0-2 against Houston last year, winning the final meeting between the two clubs on August 2, 2019. In his second year as head coach, James Clarkson is looking for a better finish for his side that went 7-12-5, finishing seventh on the league table.

Houston and OL Reign were involved in an offseason trade that saw defender Amber Brooks and forward Sofia Huerta head to Tacoma in exchange for defender Megan Oyster, forward Shea Groom and a 2022 draft pick.

Groom has already found the net for the Dash, scoring in Houston's draw with Utah on June 30. Houston forward Rachel Daly, who tied Huerta as the club's leading scorer with five goals in 2019, recorded a brace in the same match.

"For me, all the opponents are new," Benstiti said. "But I have good coaches and players with lots of experience in the league. We have worked hard this week in training and I know that we will be ready on Saturday.

MultiCare Injury Report

There are three players unavailable for selection in Saturday's contest:

Jess Fishlock - lower right leg

Sofia Huerta - right hamstring

Kelcie Hedge - right knee

How to Watch

Fans in the U.S. and Canada can watch every match of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup on CBS All Access. International fans can watch the match live on the league's official Twitch Channel.

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National Women's Soccer League Stories from July 3, 2020

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.