Reign FC travelled to Illinois ahead of its road match against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m. PT. Reign FC is seeking its first win of the season after coming from behind to earn a draw in its opening two matches.
“I’m proud of the fight our team has shown in our first two matches,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Twice now we’ve managed to overcome giving up an early goal to earn a point. Now it’s important that we put in a complete performance against a very good Chicago team away from home.”
Reign FC was winless against Chicago in 2018, going 0-1-2 against the Red Stars despite finishing one spot above them in the standings. Chicago returns a defensive core of U.S. Women's national team players in keeper Alyssa Naeher, fullback Casey Short and midfielder Julie Ertz. The Red Stars also traded the rights to Christen Press to the Utah Royals to move up and draft centerback Tierna Davidson with the number one overall pick in the offseason.
Davidson, 20, won the 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year Award, helping the U.S. win the SheBelieves Cup and becoming the first national team player to go the full 90 in her first five senior team appearances since Julie Foudy in 1994.
"Chicago is always a tough team to try and break down," Andonovski said. "We're going to have to be very thoughtful with our build up and when we choose to press our opportunities moving forward against them."
Offensively, the Red Stars are the home of Australian striker Sam Kerr. Kerr has won the NWSL Golden Boot award the last two seasons. In 2018, Kerr scored 16 goals and added four assists while helping Chicago to a fourth-place finish in league play.
"We know Sam Kerr is a big threat, but there's more to Chicago than just her," Andonovski said. "Nagasato is off to a good start. Alyssa Mautz has proven that she is a threat. I have confidence in our defense, especially after we cleaned up so many of our mistakes from week one to week two, but we're definitely not taking this team lightly."
Last Match: 1-1 Draw vs. Orlando
Reign FC may have only taken two points from its first two matches, but the club showed vast improvement in its second match against The Orlando Pride.
The club enjoyed better passing accuracy (73.8 percent, up from 65.1 in week one), possession (54.6 percent, up from 46.4) and number of crosses (24, up from 10) in their home opener. The club was more composed in the midfield and the defense allowed fewer chances, limiting Orlando to two shots on goal.
“I thought we did a lot better than the game in Houston,” Andonovski said Monday. “We looked more like ourselves. We looked more like we want to look going forward. I think it’s a great improvement. Bev (Yanez) coming back, I think she’s a huge piece of this team and her presence on the field is inspiring. Her being there definitely helped out in terms of how we want to play both ways.”
Balcer’s First Goal Proves Historic
22-year-old Bethany Balcer’s first professional goal was historic as more than just Reign FC’s first at Cheney Stadium; it was also the first goal scored by a player from an NAIA school in NWSL history.
Balcer, who attended Spring Arbor University in her native Michigan, had a busy two weeks of adding her name to the NWSL record books, becoming the first NAIA player signed to a league contract and becoming the first to play in a league match in Reign FC’s opener against the Houston Dash.
“It’s a nice story how she came to the team, how she made the team, and how she is able to impact the team,” Andonovski said. “For someone like Bethany coming from the school that she came from. To be in the same field with the likes of Marta and Alex Morgan, I think that it was a great experience. Another thing is to have the support of the team. For someone like (Megan Rapinoe) to be her biggest fan is incredible. I was enjoying the whole thing.”
How to Watch
Fans in the U.S. can watch the game on their phone, computer or streaming device on Yahoo! Sports, while fans outside the U.S. can watch the match live on NWSLsoccer.com.