Reign FC (0-0-2, 2 points) played its first-ever match at Cheney Stadium on Sunday night, finishing with a 1-1 draw against the Orlando Pride (0-2-1, 1 point) in front of 5,323 fans. Rookie Bethany Balcer scored her first professional goal for Reign FC, just 10 days after becoming the first player from an NAIA school to sign a NWSL contract.
Alanna Kennedy opened the scoring six minutes in for Orlando. Settling under an Emily van Egmond free kick, Kennedy pulled off a bicycle kick to the far side of the net, beating keeper Michelle Betos.
Reign FC responded in the 21st minute, when forward Bethany Balcer—making her first professional start—picked up a ball from midfielder Allie Long inside the 18 and curled it past Ashlyn Harris to the far side net.
“I’m very happy (for Balcer),” Andonovski said. “It’s kind of a Cinderella story. She’s coming from a small NAIA school and fifteen minutes into the game makes a name for herself. She’s a great human being and an unbelievable soccer player. It’s so nice to work with her. She just wants to get better every day and has a great mentality. When she scores goals for us, it’s even greater.”
Reign FC nearly added another goal in the 32nd minute. Shea Groom sprinted forward to pressure a soft back pass to Harris and jumped to block the Orlando keeper’s clearance. As the ball deflected toward the end line, Groom recovered and sprinted after it, but her sliding effort to reach the ball was unable to direct the ball into an open net.
Both sides had opportunities to score in the second half. Reign FC’s Shea Groom put a shot on target in the 59th minute after Long trapped a ball toward the forward with her chest, but Harris jumped up to block the shot. Orlando’s Marta had a chance to chip Betos in the 85th minute, but Betos dove backwards and grabbed the ball out of the air as it sailed toward goal.
The stop was Betos’ only save of the night as Reign FC outshot Orlando 14-13.
Andonovski praised the atmosphere at the stadium, created by the largest home crowd for a Reign match since Reign FC took on Portland on August 26, 2017 with a crowd of 6,041.
“From my own perspective on the sideline, I loved it,” Andonovski said. “Every time they got on their feet, every time they yelled, it was loud. It was really exciting. There were lots of times where I had a smile on my face saying ‘this is good.’ I want to thank the fans for coming out and supporting us. I will promise them that we’re going to put on a good show. They players loved it, they’re just as thankful for the support.
“If we go in with heart and mentality like we did tonight, we’re going to be successful.”
Match: Reign FC vs. Orlando Pride
Date: April 21, 2019
Venue: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash.
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. PT
Weather: 62 degrees – partly cloudy
Goals by half 1 2 Total
RFC 1 0 1
ORL 1 0 1
ORL – Alanna Kennedy 6’
RFC – Bethany Balcer (Allie Long) 21’
ORL – Emily van Egmond (caution) 58’
RFC – Jodie Taylor (caution) 73’
ORL – Alex Morgan (caution) 90+2’
Lineups & Stats
RFC: GK Michelle Betos, D Kristen McNabb, D Lauren Barnes, D Megan Oyster, D Celia Jimenez Delgado (Theresa Nielsen 83’), M Allie Long, M Rumi Utsugi (Morgan Andrews 90’), M Beverly Yanez, F Shea Groom, F Jodie Taylor, F Bethany Balcer (Kiersten Dallstream 78’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Lydia Williams, D Christen Westphal, M Elise Kellond-Knight, F Jaycie Johnson
Head Coach: Vlatko Andonovski
Shots on goal: 4
Corner kicks: 3
HOU: GK Ashlyn Harris, D Ali Krieger, D Alanna Kennedy, D Shelina Zadorsky, D Carson Pickett, M Dani Weatherholt, M Camila (Chioma Ubogagu 63’), M Emily van Egmond, F Rachel Hill (Kristen Edmonds 78’), F Alex Morgan, F Marta
Substitutes Not Used: GK Haley Kopmeyer, M Joanna Boyles, M Erin Greening, M Marisa Viggiano, M Bridget Callahan
Head Coach: Marc Skinner
Shots on goal: 2
Corner kicks: 1
About Reign FC
Reign FC is one of nine teams in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) – the world’s most competitive women’s professional soccer league. Reign FC features many of the top players from the United States, including U.S. Women’s National Team superstar Megan Rapinoe, as well as top players from around the world. Reign FC will begin its first campaign in the South Sound at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium in 2019. For more information on the club visit ReignFC.com.
Some information in this article was courtesy of ReignFC