A sun-drenched coronation for OL Reign’s new turf was fit for Tziarra King.
The forward’s opening-half brace was essential in forcing a 2-2 draw against Racing Louisville on Sunday at Lumen Field. The goals are the first of the season for King, who missed the bulk of the team’s NWSL Challenge Cup tournament matches because of an ankle injury.
“She’s had a tough road,” Reign coach Laura Harvey said of King, who was subbed off in the 55th minute. “Physically, she was probably at her limit before we took her off, so we’re going to have to keep pushing her through. But I’m really happy for her that she was able to get two goals.”
King was patient and smartly spaced for the finish on both of her goals.
The first was an equalizer in the 33rd minute. Reign midfielder Angelina provided the cross into the box. King switched a left-footed first touch to her right and toed the ball past a frozen keeper Katie Lund.
King trailed wide of midfielder Rose Lavelle’s run four minutes later, booting in the rebound from Lund saving Lavelle’s initial shot.
“I definitely took a real weird touch on the first one,” King said. “Had to hit it with a little toe-poke, but it was a great ball from Ange, like unbelievable. She put it on a platter.
“It comes down to one of the things that I really want to focus on, my positioning. Because of the positions I got into (Sunday), I was able to create those opportunities.”
The Reign took a 2-1 lead into the break. An error in the keeper’s box in the 60th minute provided the equalizer for Louisville (0-1-1). Angelina was credited with an own goal, but broadcast replays showed it was teammate Bethany Balcer trying to clear a shot off the goal line, the ball skimming over the plane and hitting the inner part of the cross bar.
Reign forward Ally Watt had the initial foul that allowed the scoring play from a free kick.
Because of the contact with the goal frame, Reign players felt it was a clear sign the ball didn’t cross the line and shouldn’t have been awarded a goal. In men’s leagues across the globe, the play would’ve been reviewed by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
NWSL doesn’t utilize the technology that the MLS adopted in 2017. The Reign played three matches the past week, each featuring a moment that could’ve been reviewed in their favor.
The Bold dropped the Challenge Cup semifinal match to the Washington Spirit 9-8 on penalty kicks Wednesday, but a handball in the waning minutes of regulation would’ve awarded them a penalty to possibly break a goalless draw. Harvey had already subbed Megan Rapinoe into the match, the U.S. international not missing a penalty kick since 2018 across all competitions.
“It’s been a long week,” Lauren Barnes said. “I’m probably going to get fined for this, but we don’t have VAR or anything to look over, so you have to deal with the naked eye, and I feel like that’s impossible sometimes. … In terms of any explanation, there’s none when you go on the field and you ask the ref (Karen Callado).
“But I do think that’s something that the NWSL can take a look at. We’ve seen it now for the past couple weeks that this has been a common theme. For the sport to move forward and have games that are competitive and not lost by calls like this, this is something that we need to look into.”
Harvey didn’t want to comment about the rulings on the field the past week because of league rules. She did note that Watt likely didn’t need to use her arm in fighting for possession of the ball.
“Do I think VAR would be great in the league? Yeah,” Harvey said. “We’d probably have three-hour games, but I think it would be great. I can’t talk about it. It’s beyond a joke right now.”
Louisville forward Jessica McDonald bagged the opening goal. The visitors had the Reign pinned in their defensive third for most of the first half. McDonald beamed a shot to the upper corner in the 23rd minute.
Sunday’s match before 4,396 people was the official opener for the Reign at their new Lumen Field home. The team’s France-based parent, OL Groupe, announced in December a multiyear deal for the U.S. affiliate to join the NFL’s Seahawks and MLS’s Sounders in playing at the 68,000-seat facility.
The Reign’s supporters, Royal Guard, unfurled a tifo before kickoff that had the likeness of team originals Barnes, Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock in shades and the words “We Deserve This” below them.
The message was a nod to Rapinoe’s comments after the team played at the facility for the first time last summer as part of a doubleheader with the Sounders. The Reign couldn’t play at their former Cheney Stadium home in Tacoma under the NWSL’s new collective bargaining agreement guidelines because it’s designed for baseball.
“It was really cool seeing that go up,” Barnes said of the tifo. Her team played their inaugural season at Starfire Sports in Tukwila (2013) then moved to Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center (2014-2018). “There’s a lot of history behind us three and the foundation that we’ve built here. Seeing that up in one of those posters is pretty cool.”
The Reign (0-1-1) continue NWSL play with a Cascadia derby against the Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park on Friday. The Thorns won their season-opener 3-0 against the Kansas City Current on April 30.