OL Reign had to wait until the late stages of Wednesday’s match against Utah Royals FC to find the game-winning goal. Bethany Balcer, who came on as a second-half substitute, nodded in the goal in the first minute of second half stoppage time as the club took all three points.
“It was a game like we wanted it to be,” OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti said. “The pressure was good and positive for us. We had a lot of pressure to do well. The pressure on the players must be positive. Even if you have to get a result, you have to be calm to be good and to listen to what we wanted, what we expected them to do. That’s the great thing. We expected that. The timing was good for everything. We were humble. We were passionate and we wanted our substitutes to come on the field fresh. It looks like a movie. They are happy because the result is positive.”
The goal came after a period of sustained offensive pressure that saw OL Reign take five shots over the final five minutes of play. In the first minute of stoppage time, Nicole Momiki took a quick touch to her left to create space from her defender and curled a cross to the back post, which was met by a surging Balcer. Utah keeper Nicole Barnhart got a hand to the ball, but couldn’t keep it over the line.
Balcer, who subbed on in the 69th minute for Shirley Cruz, was named the Budweiser Woman of the Match. Playing as the central attacking midfielder in OL Reign’s 4-2-3-1, Balcer took six shots in 21 minutes on the pitch, including three shots on target. The reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year nearly found the net twice more, forcing diving stops from Barnhart at the left post on both occasions.
“It feels really good. It feels like it’s been a long time coming,” Balcer said. “Our first two games, we didn’t really feel like we showed who we are, so it felt good to get the win.”
Keeper Michelle Betos made her first start since rupturing her Achilles tendon in a win against Sky Blue FC on May 18, 2019. The keeper made five saves to help the club keep its second clean sheet of the tournament.
OL Reign concludes the preliminary round with a match against rivals Portland Thorns FC on Monday, July 13 at 9:30 a.m. PT.