Per team release
OL Reign played Sky Blue FC to a scoreless draw to open the NWSL Challenge Cup on Tuesday, June 30. In its first match under head coach Farid Benstiti, OL Reign outshot Sky Blue 13-8 but could not find the back of the net.
“For my first game, when you’re in another country you don’t know what might happen,” Benstiti said. “But I think the first game for my team and I, it’s different because a lot of our players have a lot of experience in the league. It’s not a bad (result). I think this game is positive. We wanted to be strong. We were strong. We wanted to try to play collectively. I think we did it. Maybe there was 15 minutes of stress, but after it was good. I think for my first time in the NWSL it’s really positive.”
Each side tested each other’s defenses over the span of 90 minutes. Sky Blue’s best chance came in the 70st minute, when a cross from Naho Kawasumi on the left side found Elizabeth Eddy just beyond the six-yard line. Eddy fired, but OL Reign keeper Casey Murphy was able to get in front of the shot and held the rebound cleanly.
OL Reign swung numerous balls in from the wings, out crossing their opposition 25-12, but had difficulty connecting inside the penalty area, finishing with four shots on goal.
The club’s best chance came in the 85th minute, when centerback Alana Cook, making her club debut, rushed forward and headed a long ball back across midfield. Forward Nicole Momiki, who made her first club appearance after subbing on 10 minutes prior, flicked the ball past Sky Blue’s back line with her head, where Jasmyne Spencer picked it up and burst forward.
Spencer shrugged off a tackle and fired a shot toward the left side of the net, but keeper Kailen Sheridan jumped up and made the save to preserve the scoreline.
OL Reign centerback and captain Lauren Barnes was named the Budweiser Woman of the Match. Barnes completed 86.4 percent of her passes, made eight recoveries and came up with two huge blocks on scoring chances inside the penalty area.
“I thought that Lauren was playing like she was 20 today,” Benstiti said, laughing. “Lu thrives on confidence. When she trusts herself and is sure of herself, she’s a top player. Today, she was very strong tactically, good offensively and defensively and she made two big tackles for us. Today, I’m really happy for her and the team.”
The draw puts OL Reign in fifth place in the eight-team Challenge Cup. All eight clubs will advance to the quarterfinal round after the four-match preliminary round concludes. OL Reign returns to the pitch on Saturday, July 4 at 7:00 p.m. PT to face the Houston Dash.
Match: OL Reign vs. Sky Blue FC
Date: June 30, 2020
Venue: Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman, Utah
Kickoff: 8:00 p.m. MT
Weather: 72 degrees, clear and sunny
Goals by half 1 2 Total
RGN 0 0 0
NJ 0 0 0
RGN – Alana Cook (caution) 59’
Lineups & Stats
RGN: GK Casey Murphy, D Kristen McNabb, D Lauren Barnes, D Alana Cook, D Stephanie Cox (Nicole Momiki 75’), M Rebecca Quinn, M Allie Long, M Shirley Cruz (Rosie White 75’), F Darian Jenkins, F Jodie Taylor (Jasmyne Spencer 75’), F Bethany Balcer (Taylor Smith 57’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Michelle Betos, GK Carly Nelson, D Amber Brooks, D Machaela George, D Madison Hammond, D Celia Jiménez Delgado, D Adrienne Jordan, M Morgan Andrews, M Kelcie Hedge, M Dani Weatherholt, F Mariah Lee
Head Coach: Farid Benstiti
Shots on goal: 4
Corner kicks: 6
NJ: GK Kailen Sheridan, D Margaret Purce (Erica Skroski 77’), D Sabrina Flores, D Gina Lewandowski, D Estelle Johnson, M Domi Richardson (Jennifer Cudjoe 60’), M Sarah Woldmoe, M McCall Zerboni, F Paige Monaghan (Elizabeth Eddy 46’), F Ifeoma Onumonu (Evelyne Viens 77’) , F Nahomi Kawasumi
Substitutes Not Used: GK Didi Haracic, GK Megan Hinz, GK Amanda McGlynn, D Mandy Freeman, D Kaleigh Riehl, D Chantelle Swaby, M Cassidy Benintente, M Nicole Baxter, M Kenie Wright, F Imani Dorsey
Head Coach: Freya Coombe
Shots on goal: 2
Corner kicks: 4