It didn’t take long for OL Reign’s continuous pressure to rattle their opponents, Gotham FC, in Sunday’s 4-1 win at Lumen Field.
Early in the game, the Reign pushed high up the field, forcing Gotham’s defenders to make frequent mistakes that led to turnovers. The Reign fired five shots in the first 10 minutes and scored in the 15th minute via Rose Lavelle.
Megan Rapinoe pressed the defense once again, earning a penalty which she scored, and the Reign strolled into halftime up 2-0. Rapinoe finished the game with two goals and an assist as the Reign notched a season-high four goals (their most since Aug. 7, 2021).
“We wanted to exert our dominance and control the game from the beginning,” Rapinoe said. “The press was definitely a way that we did that today.”
The Reign’s sister club, Olympique Lyonnais, cheered them on from the sidelines. Sunday afternoon marked the first meeting between the two clubs, who have been part of the same ownership group — OL Groupe — since 2019. The French club was honored at halftime of the Reign game for winning the UEFA Champions League in May.
“It’s nice to put on a show at home no matter who’s here, but the fact that they were here is even sweeter,” Reign coach Laura Harvey said.
Sunday’s game also marked Harvey’s 82nd regular-season win, an NWSL record (and one Harvey admitted she didn’t even know about until afterward). Rapinoe said the league has become synonymous with Harvey and her accomplishments.
“She’s kind of a tactical mastermind,” Lavelle said. “She just brings so much fun and joy to the game for us.”
Harvey put forth one of the Reign’s strongest offensive lineups that featured Lavelle, Jess Fishlock and Quinn in midfield and Rapinoe, Jordyn Huitema and Tziarra King at forward. Harvey also subbed on Tobin Heath at halftime.
That offensive discrepancy was readily apparent when the Reign outshot Gotham FC 16-4 in the first half and 20-9 overall.
Gotham FC had a goal difference of minus-15 coming in, the worst in the league. Sunday, they scored one goal against the run of play but undid it with an own goal less than five minutes later.
“We were in control of the game for the majority of it,” Harvey said. “Just the little things in the game, I thought we did a really good job of today, and the high press obviously paid off for us.”
The Reign’s first goal started with pressure. Gotham FC, second to last in the league standings, made a sloppy pass and gave the Reign a throw-in. Rapinoe used that to send Lavelle a through ball that went past the outstretched legs of a Gotham defender. On her left foot, Lavelle steadied and smashed the ball into the top right corner for her third NWSL goal of the season.
“If you watch the Reign, ever, we’re a pressing team. The style that we like to play is to get after people,” Rapinoe said. “It opens the game up.”
Even after going up 1-0, the Reign continued to trap Gotham FC deep in their own end. Huitema blocked the goalie’s clearance, and was unlucky that the deflection didn’t land at her feet for an easy goal.
Huitema again pressured the goalie around the 40th minute, forcing her to dump the ball off to her center back. But Rapinoe was there, winning possession at the top of the 18-yard-box and then drawing a penalty kick moments later.
“Getting the second goal before halftime was pivotal for us, mentally,” Harvey said.
Initially, Lavelle stepped up to take the penalty kick, but Rapinoe revealed later that she was just a decoy. Rapinoe took it instead, and the 37-year-old star smashed the ball to the right as the goalie dived left. Then Rapinoe took off to her left, running toward the corner flag to celebrate with her team.
“I trust Rose to take the penalty, but she was never going to take the penalty,” Rapinoe said with a laugh.
The Reign had a plethora of other chances throughout the match — crosses that were inches too far for Lavelle or Huitema but would have been sure goals, and other more ambitious, long-range tries.
Ultimately, the misses didn’t matter because Rapinoe tacked on her team’s third goal and the Reign showed more than enough on both ends of the field to come away with a straightforward three points.
“She’s just got quality and she’s a flair player,” Harvey said. “That’s ‘Pinoe, that’s the person that we know.”
Off the field, Lyonnais’ Eugenie Le Sommer told the media she was grateful to see the Reign fans and her former teammates. Le Sommer, the leading scorer in French history (men’s or women’s), was on loan with the Reign from Lyonnais in 2021.
Her loan is just one example of the impacts of the clubs’ partnership. Upon her return to Lumen Field, Le Sommer told the crowd at halftime that she has enjoyed being back in Seattle. Lyonnais travels to Portland afterward, where they will play Wednesday against Chelsea FC in the first round of the Women’s International Champions Cup Tournament.
Sunday’s meeting between the two sister teams is just the first step in their partnership, said OL Reign CEO Vincent Berthillot. He hopes the two clubs can arrange a contest against one another next season, something he said would help bring Lyonnais more exposure in Seattle.
Sophie Sauvage, the OL head of international football, said she saw how excited the academy coaches were when they discussed ways they could build their programs together. And Harvey cited ruthlessness and competitiveness of the Reign as something that Lyonnais can take from their visit.
“It is a partnership that we want to grow,” Harvey said. “For us, we can use their long history of success to find out the little nuances of what it takes to be a true champion.”