Reign FC earned another road draw against the Washington Spirit on Saturday after 90 minutes without a goal. The club took control early in the match and weathered pressure early in the second half before bearing down near the final whistle.
Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski saw vast improvement from the club’s loss to Chicago on April 28.
“I thought we played a great game against a very good team,” Andonovski said. “I was very happy with the effort and intensity. I thought that they gave everything on the field. I was happy with the fact that we didn’t get scored on. We didn’t allow the team to create many opportunities, especially in the run of play. The only thing I was not happy with was the final touch and the conversion of the chances we created.”
Reign FC controlled the match in midfield, winning 64 of 118 duels and winning 11 tackles. In the first half, Reign FC’s defense kept Washington from recording a shot on goal.
Spirit head coach Richie Burke made a change to shake things up at half time, bringing on Jamaica national team forward Cheyna Matthews for Amy Harrison. Matthews’ introduction caused an immediate disruption for Reign FC’s back line and allowed Washington to tally four of their five shots on target in the first six minutes of the second half.
“It was a little bit of a shock when we first started out with the changes that (Washington) made, but I thought we adjusted quickly in the second half,” Andonovski said. “We ended up making some changes that countered some of the things they were able to exploit. At the end, we were able to finish the game even stronger than we had started.”
Right back Theresa Nielsen, who had been pressing forward to add pressure on Washington, dropped back in to counter Matthews. Centerbacks Lauren Barnes and Megan Oyster kept Washington from finding the forward for quick counters. As a result, Matthews’ influence faded; the forward completed four of seven passes and had three unsuccessful dribbles in 45 minutes of play.
Reign FC took 20 shots total, with nine shots on target. Washington keeper Aubrey Bledsoe’s nine saves was the highest tally in the league over the weekend. Bledsoe made two diving stops in the match’s closing minutes to turn aside a close-range chance from Bethany Balcer and a curling effort on an Elise Kellond-Knight free kick.
“Before we go on the field, I don’t ask the players to win the game or score goals,” Andonovski said. “I just ask them to be the best version of themselves and play well. On the other side, if you are going against a goalkeeper like Bledsoe, sometimes you’re just not going to win those games. It’s what makes this sport very interesting. Like I said, I’m very happy with the performance and I’m not happy with the final result, but at the same time I thought those were two phenomenal stops.”
Entering a bye week, Reign FC won’t play again until it faces Sky Blue FC at home on Saturday, May 18 at 1:00 p.m. PT. Despite the layoff, Andonovski is hopeful that Saturday’s match will launch his team going forward in the season.
“It was an important game for us because it’s important that we’re playing well. Now, the results later are going to come, so I just hope we can use this and get going on this sooner.”