The offensive eruption that produced two goals in five minutes and saw Reign FC defeat Utah Royals FC on the road did not arise only from the club’s attacking mindset. Aggressive defending and a well-coordinated press were critical to the club’s ability to frustrate the hosts in the first half, helping propel them to their seventh match without a loss.
Reign FC harried Utah from the opening whistle. While the club’s line of confrontation was set relatively low—residing around midfield—Reign FC chose its moments carefully to move pressure forward, resulting in one promising early chance and a goal shortly afterward.
Shea Groom jumped a pass from the Royals’ Sam Johnson in the 25th minute, immediately laying a ball forward for a sprinting Jess Fishlock, who hit an inch-perfect cutback cross from the end line that Ifeoma Onumonu volleyed inches over the crossbar.
Five minutes later, Bev Yanez used a quick burst of speed and a well-timed slide to pick off Sydney Miramontez’ pass on the left wing. Fishlock picked up the loose ball and took off, utilizing a quick return pass from Bethany Balcer to play herself into the penalty area and finish past Nicole Barnhart for the game-winning goal.
In each case, opportunistic challenges led to high-percentage scoring chances, which the club struggled to convert in the early phases of the season.
The victory improved the club to 2-1-2 on the road, a mark that head coach Vlatko Andonovski takes great pride in.
“I don’t think there is anything different on the road from the home games,” Andonovski said. “The mentality of the players and the way they approach the games—not just these last couple—but all of them throughout the season, have been tremendous. They leave their hearts on the field. They give it all. On top of that, we’ve started connecting a lot better. We had lots of new players, so we spent more time together and we’re able to connect better.”
When Jess Fishlock was stretchered off in the 54th minute, the club lost some of its ability to transition from a turnover to instantaneous attack, but was able to rely on steady defending to see out the result.
Reign FC held Utah to seven shots on goal, including just two on target. Forward Amy Rodriguez, who is tied for second in the Golden Boot race with five goals, did not have a shot on target.
Casey Murphy kept her second clean sheet in five matches, making two saves. Murphy managed to get her head in front of a close-range chance from Katie Stengel that left her with a bloody nose but denied a goal in the 70th minute.
“That save from Murphy is exactly what we want to see,” Andonovski said. “She didn’t care about maybe getting hurt or getting bloody, she put her body on the line and did the hard work that’s not always glamorous. That’s the work that the whole club has been doing to help us keep getting results.”