A tie in soccer can feel like a win. Or a loss. And sometimes, both.
The Reign FC opened their 2019 season in Houston on Sunday with a 1-1 tie that surely provoked emotions of all three results.
The Reign were missing Megan Rapinoe and Steph Catley, who were both out with calf strains, and goalkeeper Lydia Williams, who had just returned to the team after playing for the Australian national team. They trailed, 1-0, when Nichelle Price of Houston capitalized on an errant back pass by the Reign to put the Dash on the board with the game’s first goal.
Injury was added to the insult when two Reign players, Jasmyne Spencer and Megan Oyster, left the game in the first half. Spencer’s injury in the 20th minute was a non-contact incident that required her to be carted off the field. She returned to the sidelines later on in full leg brace. In the 39th minute, a collision with a Houston player had Oyster coming up limp and she was subbed off for Kristen McNabb.
The equalizer, however, was coming. In the 58th minute, Darian Jenkins, in her debut with the Reign, scored to tie it.
Reign FC remained tied thanks to goalkeeper Michelle Betos, who made seven saves on 14 shots with a number of them coming from close range.
Then, the Reign had a chance for victory in stoppage time. Jodie Taylor’s extra effort drew a foul by Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell and was awarded a penalty kick. On what proved to be the last play of the match, Campbell saved the shot to preserve the draw.
Reign FC are back in action on Sunday April 21 vs. Orlando Pride in Cheney Stadium starting at 7 p.m.
Here’s three things we learned in the season opener.
Betos comes up big
She was expected to split time with Lydia Williams during the 2019 season but Betos did her job. After conceding the opening goal, Betos, despite heavy Houston pressure, did not allow the Dash another score. Betos made seven saves on 16 shots and will serve as a reliable stand-in if Williams does indeed suit up for Australia in the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Jenkins, as good as advertised
When Jenkins was traded from Carolina to Reign FC in the fall, it was lauded as an instant upgrade to an already good Reign FC offensive attack. After a successful preseason, Jenkins helped shoulder the offensive load. Jenkins not only got the game-tying goal but helped set up various scoring chances for Reign FC.
As long as she, along with a healthy Rapinoe and Taylor, are on the attack the Reign offense should be productive.
Depth to be tested
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has remarked about how strong the team’s depth was before the season opener. Little did he know he would have to test it earlier than expected.
Serious injuries in the first half to both Spencer and Oyster left both on crutches at the end of the match. With a maximum of six players leaving for World Cup duties in a little over a month, time will tell if Andonovski’s words ring true about team depth.