In Reign FC’s latest two matchups against the Houston Dash and Portland Thorns, they received a boost from an international star who has scored back-to-back game-winning goals in her first two starts of the season.
Oh, and it’s not World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe, who has yet to play a game for Reign FC this season. The club has received a boost from midfielder Rosie White, a New Zealand-native who was acquired just three weeks ago.
In her first start for Reign FC in Houston, White scored early against the Dash in what proved to be the game-winning goal. In her second start less than a week later, White scored again, capitalizing in the second half to help Reign FC beat Portland 1-0.
Those two goals were only technically worth two points for White but in the NWSL standings, those two goals were worth six points.
“When we lost Jess (Fishlock), and obviously (Megan Rapinoe) hasn’t played, we were missing a little bit of creativity and I think that’s where Rosie steps in and gives us a little bit of that,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
The 26-year-old was acquired by the Reign on July 16 after starting every game for New Zealand in the World Cup in June. And while Reign FC’s injury list continues to grow, White has shown to be a capable replacement.
“This team has been really welcoming and it’s been a really enjoyable environment to be in,” White said. “The coaches have put a lot of time into getting me involved and making sure I’m understanding of the game plan. I’ve just felt, even throughout the last few games, that it’s gotten better and I’m gelling more with the team.”
A move to a more attacking midfielder role has helped as well. While Fishlock and Rapinoe play more as forwards, White has taken advantage of not having to play that position. She had played different positions for New Zealand in the World Cup and with the Chicago Red Stars last season.
“This definitely is where I feel most comfortable,” White said. “It’s a position that I’ve been wanting to play, and I’ve never really had a solid role — and I think Vlatko agrees that this is my base position, which is really nice that we’re on the same page about that. I hope that I’ll keep improving, I know I have a lot of learn in that role.”
And that’s the best part for Andonovski, who appreciates what White has been able to do in such a short time. Andonovski recognizes she has a long way to go before she can perfect her role for the Reign. Both coach and player feel like White can become a dominant goal-scoring threat and that she’s just scratched the surface.
“The coaches have been really detailed and they’ve pointed out things to me, you know, small details in my movement and getting myself in good positions where I can get on the ball,” White said. “(They are) just really encouraging me to be aggressive and defensively sound because that’s really valuable to them… I think that’s something that I can add to my game and keep adding to and improve upon.”
While White has provide the scoring, the Reign defense has also been key in the back-to-back shutouts. Goalkeeper Casey Murphy and a backline led by Lauren Barnes have helped the team climb to fourth place in the standings — the Reign are just two points out of first — entering Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Utah Royals FC at Cheney Stadium.
“They are so together, they are so united, it’s amazing,” Andonovski said about his defense. “I’ve been in this game for so long as a player and coach and spectator and I’ve never seen something like this. And that shows, that’s what keeps us going… As a team, I feel confident playing against anyone.”