Reign FC and the Houston Dash played to a 1-1 draw at Cheney Stadium on Sunday, June 2. The Dash’s Christine Nairn tallied an equalizer in the 90th minute to keep Reign FC from winning its third straight match.
“I think we played as hard as we could,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “I thought we started well and dictated the pace of the game for the majority of the game. When we have to make (substitutions) early in the game, it changes the way we played. Different personnel, different habits, different strengths and weaknesses. That was tough for us. At the end, I’m still happy with the performance, but we have to close it out all the way”
Reign FC was forced to make two substitutions in the first half due to injury. Darian Jenkins left the match during the stoppage in play after Balcer’s goal, making way for Ifeoma Onumonu in the 34th minute. Kristen McNabb went down away from the ball and was replaced by Morgan Proffitt in the 39th minute.
Houston had a chance to take the lead in the 30th minute, when referee Tori Penso pointed to the spot after a Sofia Huerta shot hit Morgan Andrews’ hand inside the penalty area. Huerta struck a hard shot low and to the left, but put her shot wide of the post.
Reign FC scored two minutes later. Darian Jenkins played a through ball to Bethany Balcer, who went one-on-one and scored past Dash keeper Jane Campbell. Assistant referee Adrienne McDonald had initially raised her flag to signal that Balcer was offside, but Penso overruled her decision and the goal was allowed to stand.
Reign FC had a chance to score again in the 39th minute, after Jess Fishlock hit a through ball up to Shea Groom. Groom charged into the penalty area and shot, but Campbell came off her line and made the save.
Nairn’s equalizer came after a period of increased pressure from Houston as the match wore on. Jumping on a failed clearance, Nairn hit a bouncing shot that beat Reign FC keeper Casey Murphy to the bottom right corner.
Balcer was named the Player of the Match. The rookie’s goal was her third of the year and second in as many matches.
“I’m just trying to use the skills I’ve been blessed with to contribute to this team, and one of those is goal scoring,” Balcer said. “Every opportunity I can get on goal I am going to take it and go for it. I’m grateful to be at center forward now and just always trying to find ways to contribute to my team. As a forward, that’s scoring.”
Reign FC now enters a bye week, next playing at home on Saturday, June 15 against the Washington Spirit at 7:00 p.m. PT. For Andonovski, the time off will be crucial as his team attempts to recover from injury.
“With these injuries, as frustrating as it is, we have to keep our head up and keep working hard,” Andonovski said. “We have a core group of players that are doing very well for us and they are definitely helping the process with senior leadership in Jess and Lauren (Barnes). The new players are helping, but in the end it’s not going to be like having the whole gang with you.”