TACOMA — Eugenie Le Sommer raised both arms in triumph.
OL Reign’s French center forward had done everything asked of her since arriving in the United States on loan from Ligue 1 powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais Feminin — everything except scoring a goal.
So when she got the ball from longtime teammate Dzenifer Marozsan on the left side in the 27th minute, isolated against Racing Louisville FC right back Erin Simon, there was only one thing left to do. Le Sommer drove at her defender, twisting and hesitating, cutting inside, outside and back in again while Simon bit at every feint. Once her defender was on the ground, the French forward shifted the ball onto her strong foot and curled it past Louisville goalkeeper Michelle Betos for her first goal of the season and her NWSL career.
“Finally,” Le Sommer said. “I had a lot of chances since my beginnings in the league and I’m happy to score today and of course win the game because when you score and lose it’s not the same feeling.”
Then she did it again.
Two goals from Le Sommer propelled OL Reign to its second consecutive win as it beat Racing Louisville 2-0 on Saturday night at Cheney Stadium, the first meeting between the two sides. It’s the third win in four games for the Reign, which moves level on points with the Houston Dash in seventh, and just one point behind the Chicago Red Stars occupying the final playoff spot in sixth. Both teams above the Reign play Sunday.
“As a coach, sometimes you have this vision of how you want to see the game be played,” interim head coach Sam Laity said. “How you want to score, where you score, the tactics you want to implement against an opponent, you want all those things to come off, but you know what? You cannot be greedy when it comes to victories in this league. Almost every victory in this league is different.”
The game started in a cagey fashion as an injury to right back Madison Hammond temporarily put the Reign down a player, and Louisville took advantage. A cross from the right side found striker Cece Kizer wide open in front of the goal. But she blasted the ball over the crossbar to keep the game tied 0-0.
Hammond, a converted center back, was replaced by Celia in the 14th minute, and the more conventional right back put her attacking attributes to work quickly. The Spanish fullback fizzed a ball across the penalty area, but Reign winger Tziarra King was unable to connect at the far post.
“We have a lot of faith in every single player on this team to step up when they need to and we also know Celia has a lot of experience as well,” defender Sam Hiatt said. “I don’t think anyone was worried or anything. We knew she could just slot into that role and fill it perfectly which she did and she did a great job.”
Le Sommer didn’t leave the Reign faithful waiting much longer. Her 27th minute strike put the Reign up 1-0, and the striker found herself clean through on goal again in the 42nd minute. Leading the counter, Le Sommer chased down a through ball from midfielder Jess Fishlock before finishing coolly against Betos for the second time in just 15 minutes.
The second half proved less eventful than the first. Racing Louisville pressed high, with its best chance falling to forward Nadia Nadim, whose glancing header went just wide of the far post. It also got chippy, with the teams combining for four fouls in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The Reign finished with eight fouls to Louisville’s five, and Reign forward Sofia Huerta was shown a yellow card in the 86th minute.
One of Le Sommer’s best chances for a hat trick also came soon after the restart, but she was called offside after being found in a good position on the edge of the box. The forward also had a chance late in the game as well when substitute Bethany Balcer left a ball for her, but Le Sommer’s shot was blocked.
Most of the chances in the second half fell to Racing, but no matter how hard Louisville pressed though, the Reign defense held up. Despite missing Hammond for more than 76 minutes, the rest of the backline — Lauren Barnes, Alanna Cook and Hiatt — as well as substitute Celia, kept its second consecutive clean sheet. Since its disastrous second half against Chicago, the Reign hasn’t conceded in more than 180 minutes.
“When you’ve got players like we’ve got on the field you’ve always got a chance,” Laity said. “I think the defensive partnership was exceptional again tonight. Barring a few moments in the second half, I thought they were exceptional. I’m looking forward to watching that partnership grow over the coming weeks, months and years.”
Louisville took 16 shots Saturday night. Eight were blocked, and only two were on goal, with Reign goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi saving both easily.
The Reign looks to make it three wins in a row on Saturday when it hosts the Houston Dash at Cheney Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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