Three Goals Power Reign to First Win of 2021 Challenge Cup
TACOMA, Wash. - OL Reign earned its first win of the 2021 Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant against the Chicago Red Stars on Tuesday night at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Wash. The win puts OL Reign (1-1-1, 4 points) in third place in the five-team Western Division, while Chicago (0-2-2, 2 points) dropped to fourth place in the Western Division.
OL Reign saw the return of several veteran players to its starting XI, including defenders Steph Cox and Lauren Barnes, midfielder Jess Fishlock, and forward Megan Rapinoe. The 58-degree evening was a good opportunity for OL Reign to connect as a team and earn their first win.
At the first whistle, Chicago was on the attack, earning a shot in the 2nd minute while forcing Karen Bardsley to make a save early in the match. The Reign responded with Rapinoe earning a 4th minute free kick near the 18-yard box. The ball sailed out of bounds giving Chicago a goal kick. Rapinoe continued to lead the attack and found a pocket of space to beat her defender toward goal but slipped on the damp turf.
OL Reign played more cohesively than in their previous matches, but the final ball was missing from the buildup through most of the first half. The Reign earned a free kick in Chicago's half in the 16th minute, but the ball was hit too heavy and went out for another Chicago goal kick. Sofia Huerta then led a good build up down the sideline, but the Reign couldn't get on the end of it.
Chicago found a good spell of possession of their own beginning in the 18th minute, when they created space in front of goal to get a shot off. The Reign defense was forced to step up and apply more pressure to Chicago's attack. Bardsley grabbed a floated ball out of the air, shutting down the Chicago attack.
In the 28th minute, Leah Pruitt hustled to press the Chicago goalkeeper, Alyssa Naeher, forcing the backline to make a series of small passes around the edge of the box. Her hard work paid off when she won the ball off the feet of the Chicago defender. Pruitt played a cross into to the center of the box, but was unable to connect with any of her teammates.
OL Reign found a few back-to-back shots from Huerta and Rapinoe in the 31st and 34th minute, but was unable to get a shot on frame. On the other end of the field, Chicago forward Mallory Pugh beat the OL Reign defense to open the scoring in the 38th minute with a strong run across the top of the box and a well-placed shot that just snuck past Bardsley.
Looking for an equalizer, the Reign were on the attack from the restart. They earned a free kick in a dangerous position again near the 18-yard box, but the ball in ran through everyone, going out for a Chicago goal kick. Frustrated, OL Reign pressed even more, keeping Chicago in their own half.
Then, in the 41st minute of the match, OL Reign found their first goal of the 2021 Challenge Cup thanks to a powerful right-footed strike to the bottom left corner of the goal from Huerta, who had received a perfectly weighted ball delivered by Jess Fishlock. The goal sent the teams to the locker room level at the half.
At the start of the second half, Chicago came out applying intense pressure to the Reign, containing them to their own defensive half. Julie Ertz got a shot off in the 53rd minute but did not find the back of the net.
Chicago put high pressure on the Reign defense earned three consecutive corners in the 62nd, 64th, and 65th minutes. OL Reign successfully pushed forward, breaking through the tight line that Chicago was holding. Huerta played a ball to King down the sideline, who dribbled to the end line and cut the ball back to Leah Pruitt. Pruitt found the back of the net with her right foot in the 70th minute to put OL Reign in the lead for the first time this Challenge Cup.
Energized from their second goal, the Reign continued to get forward and apply swift pressure on the ball. Tziarra King found a third goal for OL Reign in the 87th minute with a powerful shot to the lower right corner, assisted by Shirley Cruz.
Looking to make a comeback, Chicago pressed forward, applying heavy pressure to the Reign backline. After a series of deflections in the box, Gautrat beat Bardsley to the top right corner, notching a second goal for Chicago in the 90th minute.
Throughout the four minutes of added time, both teams were looking to find another goal, but none was to be had. When the final whistle sounded OL Reign had earned their first win of 2021.
Forward Leah Pruitt was recognized by OL Reign as the Budweiser Player of the Match for her incredible workrate and first goal of the Challenge Cup.
OL Reign takes on Kansas City in its next match on Monday, May 3 at 5:00 p.m. PT at Legends Field in Kansas City. This match will be available to stream on Paramount+ in the U.S. and Twitch internationally.
2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret Deodorant
OL Reign (1-1-1) 3-2 Chicago Red Stars (0-2-2)
Date/Time: Tuesday, April 27, 2021, 7:00 p.m. PT
Location: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash.
Weather: 58, Partly Sunny
TEAM 1H 2H FT
OL Reign 1 2 3
Chicago Red Stars 1 1 2
CHI: Pugh - 38', Gautrat - 90'
RGN: Huerta - 41', Pruitt - 70', King - 87'
RGN: GK Karen Bardsley, D Steph Cox © (Brooks, 71'), D Celia, D Madison Hammond, M Quinn, M Dani Weatherholt, M Jess Fishlock (Momiki, 71'), F Sofia Huerta (Spencer, 89'), F Leah Pruitt (Cruz, 83'), F Megan Rapinoe (King, 46')
Unused substitutes: F Balcer, GK Dederick, D McNabb, M White
Total Shots: 8 (Huerta - 3)
Shots on Goal: 3 (three-way tie - 1)
Fouls: 11 (Weatherholt - 3)
Corner Kicks: 1
Saves: 2 (Barsley - 2)
CHI: GK Alyssa Naeher, D Casey Krueger, D Kayla Sharples, D Tierna Davidson, D Sarah Gorden, M Danielle Colaprico (Gautrat, 46'), M Vanessa DiBernardo (Luebbert, 82'), M Julie Ertz ©, F Katie Johnson (Doniak, 46'), F Mallory Pugh (Woldmoe, 66'), F Rachel Hill (Watt, 46')
Unused substitutes: GK Miller, M Stanton, D Morse, D Milazzo
Total Shots: 22 (Ertz, Sharples - 4)
Shots on Goal: 5 (five-way tie - 1)
Fouls: 14 (Pugh - 3)
Corner Kicks: 9
Referee: Laura Rodriguez
Assistant Referees: Deleana Quan, Alicia Messer
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