Reign FC (2-1-5, 11 points) makes its second trip to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, June 23 at 3:00 p.m. PT. Chicago handed Reign FC its first loss of the season at SeatGeek Stadium back on April 28 in a decisive 3-0 win.
“I think we’ve come a long way as a club from that first loss,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “I think we’ve tightened up a lot of the areas that we struggled in during that match and our recent form has been strong. Chicago is a tough team, but I’m confident in our ability to get a result.”
Last Match: 1-1 D vs. Washington Spirit
The Washington Spirit waited until the second half to open the scoring, when Andi Sullivan fought her way to the byline and fired a low shot past Reign keeper Casey Murphy in the 62nd minute. Jess Fishlock responded for Reign FC 15 minutes later, fighting to recover a loose ball at the edge of the penalty area and smashing it past Aubrey Bledsoe for her first goal of the season.
Fishlock, who took a match-high 11 shots (four on target, four blocked), earned Player of the Match honors and was later voted as the NWSL’s Player of the Week.
“It’s nice,” Fishlock said. “I thank those for voting, but I want to say thanks to my teammates. We’re doing a great job at the moment of playing some good football and creating a lot of chances. That’s what was good for me on the weekend. I’m happy to accept the award, but I want to thank my teammates for helping make me look so good.”
Fishlock Dialed In on Offense
Fishlock’s offensive display against Washington accounted for nearly half of Reign FC’s 24 shots on June 15. The attacking midfielder played more like a forward, making fewer passes but constantly driving the club toward the Spirit goal every time she got on the ball.
Andonovski values the midfielder’s offensive contributions, but values her leadership more, especially with a relatively young roster around her.
“I think what I realized with Jess is that she’s enjoying it a lot more than she ever has,” Andonovski said. “Obviously, she’s a great player. Her contributions are tremendous for the team. Most importantly, I love her enjoyment of the game and her leadership on the field. She’s literally coaching the front line and the young players around her. It’s good to have her back.”
Cox Still Sharp Three Years On
Defender Steph Cox made her 50th career appearance for Reign FC in the draw against Washington—1,353 days after her 49th appearance in 2015. After the over-three year layoff, Cox looked sharp in her first match since signing as a National Team Replacement Player on May 31, making three interceptions, 11 recoveries and taking a team-high 81 touches.
“There are games where you’re not involved as an outside back at all,” Cox said. “A minimal kind of game. That game, there were so many moments that I was involved in, the number doesn’t surprise me, but to have the highest on the team and to have my body be able to manage that is incredible. I think all of that joy and the love of the game did spill out. I remember, at halftime Nick was like ‘how does your body feel?’ I felt fine. I didn’t know if it was the adrenaline or what. I guess I was just super fresh from three and a half years off the field. I had a great time out there.”
Lacking Kerr, Chicago Still Dangerous
The Red Stars may have lost their first two matches while two-time Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr is away at the World Cup, but Andonovski is still wary of the club.
“They’re a great team, regardless of whether Sam Kerr is there or not,” Andonovski said. “No one questions Sam Kerr’s ability. She’s the best player in the world. The fact that she’s not there is going to help us, but they still have players like Casey Short and (Danielle) Colaprico. They are all players who can hurt you at different times. We have to be 100 percent ready at every aspect of the game to be able to compete against them.”
Chicago, which enters the match following a 21-day layoff following a 3-0 loss to the Portland Thorns on June 2, made a move to bolster its attack Wednesday. The club traded a first and second round pick to Sky Blue FC to acquire forward Savannah McCaskill, who finished as a finalist for the 2018 Rookie of the Year award.
Eight players are unavailable for Reign FC in Sunday’s contest:
Michelle Betos (ruptured achilles)
Taylor Smith (torn ACL)
Jasmyne Spencer (torn ACL)
Jaycie Johnson (knee)
Scout Watson (concussion)
Kristen McNabb (calf)
Darian Jenkins (hamstring)
Shea Groom (calf)
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