Reign FC’s first home loss of the season was at the hands of the Chicago Red Stars on July 28. The 4-0 result was the first time Reign FC has lost consecutive matches under head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
The stumble as the club entered the second half of the season can be largely sourced to the difficulties of reintegrating World Cup players on a quick turnaround and injuries. The club was missing 12 players due to injury, six of whom made at least 15 appearances for the club in 2018.
Still, even in the late minutes, Andonovski was pushing his team forward.
“We always believe that there is a chance,” Andonovski said. “Even when we were 3-0 down with 10 minutes to go, we made a sub hoping that we were going to make a difference. Today, it seemed like nothing went our way. Credit to Chicago. They were defending well. They were organized. They were attacking well and they looked like a playoff team, like a top team in this league.”
Reign FC held the ball for 56.5 percent of the match, but was outdueled 44-28 and outtackled 11-2. Offensively, the club put two of its 14 shots on target, with three more blocked inside the penalty area.
Midfielder U.S. international Allie Long said it’s important for the returning World Cup players to get the kinks ironed out.
“Getting back into playing 90-minute games after not going that consistently over the past month and a half (is a challenge),” Long said. “And learning the new players around us. We have had a lot of injuries, so the players that I’m playing with (are new to me). It’s almost like a mini preseason that we are going through right now.”
Even in the frustration of the loss, players and coaches voiced their appreciation for the 7,479 that turned up to Cheney Stadium as the club honored its World Cup players. The crowd set a single-match attendance record for a Reign FC home match and was the highest-attended event at Cheney Stadium this year.
“It was amazing,” defender Steph Catley said. “This is my second year with the Reign and I haven’t felt anything like that. It was so loud. Every tackle, every pass. We obviously didn’t get the win for them and I’m pretty sad about that. I really wanted to do that. But for the crowd that came out today, they were incredible. I had the biggest smile on my face when I was lining up for the national anthem. It was a real buzz.”
The record attendance is part of a league-wide increase in attendance following the U.S. Women’s National team’s victory at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Long hoped after the match that the power of inspiration and the quality of play in the league would keep fans coming back, citing her own experiences with the members of the U.S. team that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup.
“When I saw the ‘99ers win the trophy, that’s what caused me to be laser focused and go after what I wanted. I think we are role models for little girls. Parents, teachers, coaches: bring people to the games and show how great these women are. Use us as role models for them and know that we are possibly creating a platform for their daughters to play one day. I hope the wave of people continues and I hope that it is a big snowball getting bigger and bigger.”