Reign FC’s 1-1 draw against the Houston Dash bore a strong resemblance to the club’s season opener against Houston that ended in the same score back on April 14. In each match, Reign FC had to use two subs in the first half due to injury and Houston was forced into late heroics to earn a point.
When the clubs met to open the 2019 NWSL season, Reign FC lost two of its starting players in the span of 14 minutes. Sunday, it only took the club five minutes.
The first major disruption came just after Reign FC took the lead. Shortly after playing a through ball to Bethany Balcer for the match’s opening goal in the 32nd minute, forward Darian Jenkins pulled up short. She was replaced by forward Ifeoma Onumonu before Houston restarted play.
Midfielder Kristen McNabb went down in the 36th minute away from the ball and was replaced by Morgan Proffitt.
Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said that while he doesn’t expect either injury to be too long-term, both players may miss a few weeks.
“Unfortunately, we had to make those subs,” Andonovski said. “I thought both of them, before they came out were very steady for us, did very well in controlling, with McNabb balancing the team both vertical and horizontal but also controlling the midfield and allowing Jess Fishlock to play a little more freely than Morgan Andrews. Darian was dangerous all the way through. She made things happen for us.”
Balcer said that despite the changes, Reign FC still wanted to attack Houston the same way.
“It was still our game plan to get in behind,” Balcer said. “(Ifeoma) knew that. She executed well. Morgan Proffitt came in and I thought she played an amazing game. It definitely shakes the game up a bit. It’s a different starting eleven out there, but I thought we finished the half well.”
Onumonu helped continue to provide pressure on Houston’s back line. Her speed helped keep the Dash defenders honest as a threat to track down balls over the top, despite being caught offside twice. Despite initially slotting in on the left side, the forward eventually switched sides with Shea Groom.
“It was just something that initially happened between the two of them,” Andonovski said. “They switched after one of the restarts and we kept it the way it was because we started having more success getting in behind on both sides.”
For Proffitt’s part, the midfielder completed 17 of 22 passes and finished with a defensive performance that included six recoveries, four interceptions and one tackle won.
The late drama took a different form this time around with Houston. Whereas the season opener’s late shock was Dash keeper Jane Campbell’s save against Jodie Taylor deep into second-half stoppage time, this time it was Christine Nairn’s 90th minute equalizer that finally got a ball past Casey Murphy after three unsuccessful attempts.
With Reign FC entering a bye week, injured players will have a chance to rest before its home match against the Washington Spirit on June 15. Still, Andonovski expects it won’t be too long before the club is back to work.
“We’ll take a couple of days to get ourselves right and rested, then we’ll get back to work,” Andonovski said. “We’re finding our rhythm right now and we want to make sure we’re in position to get another positive result at home.”