Reign FC faced the Houston Dash at BBVA Stadium to open the 2019 season on April 14, settling for a 1-1 draw away from home. On a much hotter August 2, the club used lessons from the first contest to produce a crucial 1-0 win.
The match, which was Reign FC’s first of three in a 10-day span, took a much different form than the season opener. While the first game was a wide-open affair that had the likes of Houston’s Rachely Daly and Reign FC’s Jodie Taylor doing all they could to stretch out the opposing back line, Friday’s contest was much more compact.
With game time temperatures hovering at 97 degrees, Reign FC played much more conservatively, choosing its moments to attack carefully and leaving plenty of bodies between the Dash and goal.
“Going into Houston, we knew it was going to be different from the travel perspective,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “The temperature was a factor. There were lots of variables that came in to deciding what type of game we were going to play. So, that’s why we decided to stay a little bit lower, be a lot more conservative, allow shots from distance. Sometimes, that can backfire, but this time we were fortunate enough and good enough that it worked well.”
Houston outshot Reign FC 19-8, but were forced to take 11 of them from beyond the 18-yard line. Six of Houston’s shots were blocked by Reign FC’s back line, while the four shots that were on target were all stopped by keeper Casey Murphy.
The shutout was Murphy’s fourth in nine appearances since signing with the club on May 15, tied for the second-most in the league.
“I think Casey has grown a lot since she came to us,” Andonovski said. “Being in a good professional environment where she has a goalkeeper coach (in Ljupco Kmetovski-Rakush) that is at a high level working with her on a daily basis is something that has helped her a lot. She’s also been able to adjust to the league and get used to the teams. Every game is going to be different and present different challenges, and our expectations for her are very high and we’re going to hold her to a high standard.”
The three points put Reign FC back on the right foot after losing consecutive matches for the first time under Andonovski. The points will give the club a boost, psychologically as well as in the standings, as Reign FC prepares to host the Portland Thorns on Wednesday, August 7 at 7:00 p.m. PT and Utah Royals FC on Sunday, August 11 at 1:00 p.m. PT.
“Any time you can get points away from home is a big success,” Andonovski said. “Getting points out of Houston is huge. It was very important for us to get back on track. Losing that game (against Chicago) I think hurt us more mentally than anything else. Getting back and winning this game allows us to mentally solidify ourselves for two of the toughest opponents in the league in Portland and Utah.”