After a half watching OL Reign make empty runs at goal, Jess Fishlock knew the move she wanted to make against NJ/NY Gotham FC on Wednesday.

The midfielder subbed on in the 56th minute along with forward Megan Rapinoe. Seconds later, Fishlock drew a penalty in the box against Ali Krieger, who was also shown a yellow card, and Rapinoe hit the goal from the spot to secure a 1-0 win at Red Bull Arena.

“We lacked threatening runs with intensity around their back line,” Fishlock said of what she witnessed on the bench as the sides went into halftime goalless. “It’s something that we’re actually really good at and for some reason (Wednesday), probably our schedule, we just weren’t really there.

“Me and Pinoe watched the first half and could see it was glaringly obvious that we just weren’t getting those penetrating runs, so we said let’s turn up, get them facing their own goal and lets attack them with (intensity) and see what happens.”

The Reign (9-4-7) collected three points with the result, shooting them to the top of NWSL table with the San Diego Wave (34 points). The top six teams advance to the postseason, the top two earning a first-round bye.

Gotham attacker Midge Purce was relentless in trying to get her side to play the role of spoiler. She had chances in the 15th, 50th and 62nd minute and was in position to do damage in second-half stoppage time, but the plays were either saved or blocked.


Reign keeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce had three saves in the match for her seventh clean sheet of the season. Her performance bumped the home side’s losing streak to 11 games, a new NWSL record.

Fishlock was a planned substitution as she works her way back from a slight hamstring tear suffered while with her Wales national team. Reign coach Laura Harvey said she would’ve left Rapinoe off, but needed the firepower.

Rapinoe has scored in five of her past six matches, including a game-winner from distance in the club’s first-ever win against North Carolina last week. The U.S. international’s made penalty on Wednesday is her 12th in her NWSL career, which ties Rapinoe with former teammate Kim Little for the league record.

In another season, Gotham (4-16-0) would’ve been a trap match for the Reign. But the team credits the loss to the Houston Dash at Lumen Field in August for the way they’re grinding out positive results.

The Reign are on a five-game unbeaten streak and have a rematch against the Dash (9-5-6, 33 points) at PNC Stadium on Saturday.

“We’ve turned into a different team,” said Harvey, who returned to the sideline after missing one game because of league COVID protocols. “(Last week) was a good indicator of that. To go to Carolina and win was a huge statement. And I’ve said all week, (Wednesday) is as important a win because I feel like it would be easy for us to take our foot off the gas. Now it sets us up for another important one on Saturday.”