Match Preview: KC NWSL on the Road Again for West Coast Clash Against OL Reign NWSL KC

The Latest | Jul 09, 2021

Match Preview: KC NWSL on the Road Again for West Coast Clash Against OL Reign

Two teams looking to improve their standings square off on Sunday with both Kansas City NWSL and OL Reign on the hunt for a potentially season-altering three points. Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington is the venue for Sunday’s 6 p.m. CT showdown, broadcast on KSMO-TV locally and streamed nationally on Paramount+.

Kansas City impressively weathered a three-hour plus weather delay last Friday to earn a 1-1 draw on the road against NJ/NY Gotham FC. Gotham FC struck first in the 31st minute on a well-placed goal from forward Ifeoma Onomanu, a goal that stood as the game’s only tally for the remainder of the first half and a majority of the second half. However, in the game’s 83rd minute, Kansas City forward Mariana Larroquette conjured a bit of magic, touching the ball around a Gotham FC defender and lifting the ball over the opposing goalkeeper and into the back of the net from distance. Larroquette’s brilliant goal secured the draw, earning the forward a place at No. 5 on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.

OL Reign, meanwhile, dropped its second consecutive contest last Friday against the Houston Dash, 2-0. Despite having over 60 percent possession and recording two more shots on target than Houston, two second-half goals scored seven minutes apart handed Houston the victory. The match was the first for OL Reign under the guidance of longtime Assistant Coach Sam Laity, who is serving in an interim role following the resignation of former Head Coach Farid Benstiti.

MALLORY WEBER SPARKED KANSAS CITY’S FAST START IN CHALLENGE CUP MEETING

In early May, the two teams met in the final 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup match for each team. The match also served as Kansas City’s first on its home pitch at Legends Field in Kansas City, Kansas. Forward Mallory Weber energized the crowd early, curling a right-footed shot into the top corner to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 6th minute.

However, OL Reign equalized just under a half-hour later through a converted penalty kick from midfielder Jessica Fishlock. The two sides went into halftime tied 1-1. The visitors took the lead in the 84th minute, as Celia Jimenez Delgado headed in a corner kick that looped over the head of Kansas City goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. Kansas City was unable to equalize, falling to the OL Reign 2-1.

OL REIGN, KANSAS CITY ENTER SUNDAY HUNGRY FOR GOALS

Goals have been hard to come by for both sides entering Sunday’s game. Both Kansas City NWSL and OL Reign have scored five goals this season, tied for the lowest total in the NWSL. Four of Kansas City’s five goals have come from two players: Larroquette and forward Amy Rodriguez, both of whom have two goals. Midfielder Shirley Cruz leads OL Reign with two goals scored in the regular season.

On Thursday, Kansas City NWSL Head Coach Huw Williams stressed the importance of consistently firing shots at the opposing goal. Over the last two games, Kansas City NWSL has seen a bit of a drop-off when it comes to shots on goal following solid offensive performances in late-June losses to the Portland Thorns and Orlando Pride. After recording five shots on goal in both matches, Kansas City has recorded just four shots on goal in each of its last two matches against the Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC. OL Reign, meanwhile, has been shut out in its last two contests. With both sides looking to turn the tide offensively, both Kansas City and OL Reign will be aggressive on Sunday.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

KC NWSL: Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart — The 39-year-old NWSL veteran continues to produce at an extremely high level, and that was perhaps no more apparent than in last Friday’s contest against Gotham FC. Barnhart made three saves filling in for an injured Abby Smith against NJ/NY Gotham FC and helped secure the 1-1 result with an incredible save in second-half stoppage time.

In the 95th minute, Barnhart came out to smother a headed ball from Gotham FC midfielder Brianna Pinto that dropped inside the six-yard box. Kansas City attempted to clear the ball, but it fell to Gotham FC midfielder Sodam Lee at the top of the 18-yard box with Barnhart off her line. Lee volleyed the ball on goal, but Barnhart lunged backwards to make an acrobatic save, denying a sure-fire goal. On Sunday, Barnhart will look to build on last week’s performance and help Kansas City’s back line limit OL Reign offensively.

OL Reign: Midfielder Jessica Fishlock — The Cardiff, Wales native drew praise from Williams on Thursday, saying Fishlock “had to be close” to make Great Britain’s tough-to-crack roster for the Olympics. She, along with midfielder Sofia Huerta, leads a solid OL Reign midfield that will look to run the show on Sunday. Fishlock has appeared in eight games for OL Reign this season and has one goal and no assists to her name. However, Fishlock is still a competent playmaker, with 13 total shots and 12 recorded key passes. A quality performance from Kansas City’s midfield will be needed on Sunday to slow down OL Reign’s offensive rhythm.

OLYMPICS LEAVE BOTH TEAMS SHORTHANDED
Preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament are well underway, and both teams enter Sunday’s match shorthanded. OL Reign will be without two USWNT standouts in forward Megan Rapinoe and midfielder Rose Lavelle, neither of whom featured in first meeting between the two teams. Midfielder Quinn was called up to represent Canada in Tokyo, and OL Reign midfielder Angelina was named to Brazil’s Olympic squad as an injury replacement. Of that group, only Angelina featured in OL Reign’s matchup against Houston last week.

Between injuries and Olympic call-ups, Kansas City enters Sunday shorthanded as well. To Kansas City’s benefit, much like OL Reign, the team is already well-adjusted to playing without its Olympic call-ups. Defender Katie Bowen (New Zealand), midfielder Desiree Scott (Canada), and midfielder Chloe Logarzo (Australia) were all selected to represent their respective countries in Tokyo, but none of the trio featured in Kansas City’s 1-1 draw with Gotham FC.

HOW TO FOLLOW ALONG
Brad Porter and Aly Trost will bring the action to Kansas City fans on KSMO-TV, with a simulcast on 1510 ESPN Kansas City. Nationally, the match will stream on Paramount+

A complete list of Kansas City’s remaining games and broadcast information can be found at KCWoSo.com

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