Reign FC carried off three more points in front of an energetic home crowd on Wednesday in a 1-0 win over Portland Thorns FC. The win was secured through stout defending and expert organization that stymied a high-flying Portland offense.
“This match was a big one for our defense,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “We knew that we were going to have to play very well to keep Portland from getting a goal, but the team pulled together and took care of one another out there.”
The Thorns came into the match averaging a league-best 2.06 goals per game, having scored 31 goals this season. Portland looked to put Reign FC under pressure, but the defense kept things compact at the back.
The centerback pair of Lauren Barnes and Megan Oyster covered ground and denied Portland room in behind. When Oyster got caught out charging a ball at midfield in the 16th minute, Barnes covered for her and denied Thorns striker Midge Purce a clean one-on-one opportunity, blocking Purce’s shot and sending it out for a throw in.
In total, Reign FC blocked seven of Portland’s 16 shots. With defenders quickly closing down on rebounds and passes at the top of the penalty area, another seven shots sailed wide of the net.
Reign FC keeper Casey Murphy was only forced to make two saves to keep her fifth clean sheet in 10 starts since joining the club on May 15.
“It’s a quick turnaround from the last match but mentality-wise, nothing changes,” Murphy said. “We go into every match ready for a battle, ready for a fight. We knew they were going to be strong and tough and we had to match that. I think we came out and we were physical. We weren’t intimidated. We didn’t fear anybody. They were a very strong opponent, but I felt we were able to shut them down.”
Portland threw numbers forward after Rosie White bagged her second goal of the year in the 55th minute. The Thorns worked the ball to Hayley Raso and sent arcing entry balls into the penalty area as they were entering the final third, but Reign FC’s defense forced low percentage shots and smashed attempted crosses downfield as time ticked away.
“Portland’s dominant in the air and they’re good at whipping balls in,” Murphy said. “We prepared for that in the couple sessions prior to playing them. It’s also something we’ve known about them having played them in the past, so we were focused and ready to go. Marking in the box, all those key fundamental things we knew we had to be at our best today in order to shut them down.”
When referee Danielle Chesky blew for full time after seven minutes of stoppage time, the defense had made 32 clearances to preserve the win in front of the 5,865 in attendance.
“These last two matches have been two very determined performances from our team,” Andonovski said. “I think these games show our squad’s character and their fight. If we keep putting in performances like this, then good things will happen.”