• Ian Knighton

OL Reign and the NWSL Challenge Cup: New Name, Who Dis?

Head Coach: Farid Benstiti


2019 Record: 38 points - 10 wins, 8 draws, 6 losses - fourth place overall.


Player You Should Know: Jess Fishlock.


Here's the deal, as we go forward I'm going to struggle a bit to pull out a lot of names you have heard of if you're not already watching a lot of women's soccer. Yes, Allie Long and Sofia Huerta are on this roster and are great players, but I think Jess will be the player who makes the difference in this tournament. Jess brings a lot from the midfield and, in the absence of an attacking player of USWNT fame, will be responsible for building a lot of chances out of the middle instead of the wing.


If we look at form from last year, a lot of teams are going to live and die by the midfield and if that's the battle you're going to run into, Jess Fishlock is probably the best captain.


Under the Radar: Alana Cook.


Sticking with the theme that the midfield will be incredibly important, a center back that can spring a counter-attack plays very much into that.


Offseason Moves: The aforementioned Alana Cook came in on a short term loan from PSG. Which is somewhat funny when you think about a team owned by the OL Groupe bringing in a player from PSG.


Other big moves were a trade with Houston dash for forward Sofia Huerta and defender Amber Brooks. They also brought in a couple players who trained with them in Missoula, Montana to fill in roster spots.


What Makes Them Exciting: Their goal differential last season was 0 which is wild if you think about it. They like to score, but they also have a tendency to leave things open in equal quantities. The roster changes may help change that balance a bit, but I would expect a not insignificant amount of end to end play.


Matchups:


Tuesday, June 30 at 10pm ET OL Reign will play Sky Blue FC on CBS All Access


Saturday, July 4 at 10pm ET OL Reign will play the Houston Dash on CBS All Access


Wednesday, July 8 at 12:30pm ET OL Reign will play Utah Royals FC on CBS All Access


Monday, July 13 at 12:30pm ET OL Reign will play Portland Thorns FC on CBS All Access


Obviously, their final group match against Portland will be the one to keep an eye on. Not only will it probably have a weight on how the quarterfinals shake out, but it's a pseudo-derby.


Biggest Challenge: They trained in Montana. No one leaves Montana the same as they were when they went in.


Also, between new players, players coming back from injury and missing players, they're going to need some shakedown time when they hit the pitch. How quickly they can finish that shakedown will make a big difference.


Predicted Finish: Fourth.