OL Reign’s newcomers made the difference in the club’s 2-0 victory over Utah Royals FC to end the NWSL Fall Series Saturday. Forwards Sofia Huerta and Leah Pruitt—the latter making her first club start—each scored their first club goal as OL Reign finished the year with three points at home.
“I think it was a really good game,” OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti said. “I think we were playing the same way against Portland the last game, but the difference is that we were more aggressive, more offensive. Even when we defended, we were offensive. We defended forward, we didn’t drop too much. When we were a little imbalanced, our four defenders were really well organized.”
OL Reign struck first in the 24th minute. After Kristen McNabb headed a Utah corner clear, Shirley Cruz picked up the ball and raced downfield. Cruz laid the ball off to Huerta on the right side, whose low shot deflected off defender Elizabeth Ball and under keeper Abby Smith for her first club goal.
Leah Pruitt added to OL Reign’s lead six minutes into the second half. The forward picked up a square ball from Bethany Balcer at the top of the 18-yard box, before picking her head up and lofting the ball past Smith to the left side of the net.
OL Reign peppered the opposition’s net, outshooting them 23-10, including an 11-5 advantage in shots on target over the span of 90 minutes. Despite ceding a slight possession majority to Utah, the club outtackled the visitors 20-10.
Huerta was named OL Reign’s Budweiser Player of the Match. In addition to her goal, the forward finished with five shots, including two on target, and four key passes in 90 minutes on the pitch.
“The victory is indicative of the work we did this week,” Benstiti said. “Last week, too. We are happy when we work very well. You’re sure it’s a good way (to do things). When you win, you are happy because you feel very professional about the job. The players did it very well. They listened to what we asked them to do, but after that they played very well. It’s not me on the field, it’s the players. I can’t tell them everything. They know what to do and when they do those things efficiently, they just have to play. They played today.”
During the match, the broadcast recognized OL Reign Academy players Tatiwyat Buck and Arianna Ortiz as the recipients of the first-ever Boeing Academy Scholarships. The scholarships, sponsored by Boeing and awarded to young players of color, will cover Ortiz and Buck’s full cost of participation with the OL Reign Academy for the 2020/2021 season.
Match: OL Reign vs. Utah Royals FC
Date: October 17, 2020
Venue: Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash.
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. PT
Weather: 58 degrees, cloudy
Goals by half 1 2 Total
RGN 1 1 2
UTA 0 0 0
RGN – Sofia Huerta (Shirley Cruz) 24’
RGN – Leah Pruitt (Bethany Balcer) 51’
RGN – Kristen McNabb (caution) 45+8’
RGN – Jasmyne Spencer (caution) 90+1’
Lineups & Stats
RGN: GK Casey Murphy, D Madison Hammond, D Kristen McNabb, D Amber Brooks, D Steph Cox, M Dani Weatherholt, M Shirley Cruz (Sam Hiatt 79’), M Rosie White (Morgan Andrews 70’), F Leah Pruitt (Miranda Nild 79’), F Sofia Huerta, F Bethany Balcer (Jasmyne Spencer 86’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Carly Nelson, D Kimberly Hazlett
Head Coach: Farid Benstiti
Shots on goal: 11
Corner kicks: 8
UTA: GK Abby Smith, D Elizabeth Ball, D Taylor Leach, D Mallory Weber, D Katie Bowen, M Lo’eau LaBonta, M Taylor Lytle, M Aminata Diallo (Gaby Vincent 63’), F Tziarra King (Arielle Ship 76’), F Amy Rodriguez, F Brittany Ratcliffe (Michele Vasconcelos 66’)
Substitutes Not Used: GK Melissa Lowder, D Michelle Maemone, D Madeline Nolf, F Raisa Strom-Okimoto
Head Coach: Amy LePeilBet
Shots on goal: 5
Corner kicks: 2