Reign FC hit the road Friday ahead of their 2019 NWSL season opener. The Reign will start NWSL play away from home for just the second time in club history, taking on the Houston Dash on Sunday, April 14 at 3:00 p.m. PT.
“I know the players are excited to finally start playing league matches,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “It’s been a good preseason, but it’s been a long one too. As a player, this is what you spend all that time and effort preparing for, so we are all ready to go.”
Reign FC played a club-record five preseason friendlies in 2019, continuing its tradition of playing the University of Washington and UCLA, while also spending a week in Portland for the Thorns Spring Invitational. The Reign won friendlies against UW, UCLA, the U.S. Women’s National Team U23s and Chicago Red Stars, to go along with a scoreless draw against the Portland Thorns.
The number of competitions gave Andonovski time to experiment with different lineups, testing depth that will be crucial during the Women’s World Cup in the summer.
“Obviously, preseason games are just that,” Andonovski said. “It’s difficult to draw any significance from the results, but I’m pleased with the steady improvement that players have shown. I think we have a good squad that is ready to compete in league play and I’m obviously glad that we were able to spread minutes around to players that we’re going to rely on this season.”
Eight different players scored for Reign FC during the preseason. Shea Groom, Kristen McNabb, Jasmyne Spencer, Morgan Andrews, Theresa Nielsen, Allie Long, Darian Jenkins and non-roster invitee Bethany Balcer (who was recently signed by Reign FC) all found the back of the net for the Reign as the club outscored opponents 11-2 in preseason play.
Scouting the Dash
Reign FC was 2-1-0 against Houston last season, dropping the first points in series history on the road on May 23 on a stoppage-time game-winner from the Dash’s Veronica Latsko.
With the Dash returning leading scorer Rachel Daly, who poured in 10 goals last season, Andonovski says the club will have to work hard away from home to square up with the Dash.
“There are a few things that we’re going to have to do,” Andonovski said. “Houston is a very dynamic team. The first thing we’ll have to do is match their speed and physicality and stop their counterattacks. That will be a key from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, we have to get behind their back line. The more often we can do that, the more successful we can be.”
Houston will play its first season under new head coach James Clarkson, who replaced Vera Pauw after she parted ways with the club last September. Clarkson most recently served as the director of youth development in the Houston Dynamo Academy.
The Dash have three allocated players from the Canadian Soccer Association in defender Allysha Chapman, midfielder Sophie Schmidt and forward Nichelle Prince. The club has also acquired two new defenders, including Liverpool’s Satara Murray and Mexican international Arianna Romero, in hopes of improving a back line that conceded a league second-highest 39 goals last season.
Rare Road Start for Reign FC
Of the club’s six previous season openers, only one has been a road match. The Reign’s first ever game was a 1-1 draw on the road against the Chicago Red Stars in 2013, but the club has opened every other NWSL season at home.
Reign FC is 3-1-2 all-time in season openers, the lone loss being a 2-1 result against Sky Blue FC in 2016. The club has outscored opponents 13-6 in those matches.
“It’s always nice to start the season at home in front of your own fans, but our players are good professionals,” Andonovski said. “They know what they have to do to take care of business on the road and I think having spent so much of our preseason traveling to California and Oregon means that they are well-prepared to start things off away from home.”
Reign FC’s match against Houston will be livestreamed in the US by Yahoo! Sports. The game can be accessed via the Yahoo! Sports mobile app, apps on Roku or AppleTV, or through a web browser: https://yhoo.it/2UcAcko. International viewers can catch the game at NWSLsoccer.com.