Vlatko Andonovski postgame
For the Reign FC, Sunday’s first game at their new home, Cheney Stadium, was a lot like their season opener last week.
Another early deficit, another rally and another tie.
The banged up Reign (0-0-2) — playing without star forward Megan Rapinoe for the second week and without last week’s goal scorer Darian Jenkins — tied the Orlando Pride, 1-1, before 5,323 fans.
The Pride (0-1-1) pressured the Reign from the beginning and capitalized with an impressive goal by Alanna Kennedy in the sixth minute. Kennedy executed a bicycle kick, the first scored in the NWSL since 2017, to give Orlando the early lead.
Like they did in tying Houston, 1-1, last week, the Reign held their opponents in check. In the 21st minute forward Bethany Balcer, making her first career start, netted the equalizer. Balcer was playing in place of Jenkins, who was bothered by a hamstring injury.
Balcer’s goal was also noteworthy because it was the first goal scored by a player to play in NAIA; Balcer played collegiately at Spring Arbor University.
Both teams had chances to break the tie. Orlando had a one-on-one breakaway as midfielder Rachel Hill appeared to have a scoring opportunity but Reign FC defender Lauren Barnes made a sliding tackle to end the threat.
Minutes later, Reign FC’s Shea Groom put a shot that avoided Orlando keeper Ashlyn Harris rolled just wide of the post.
The game turned physical in the second half. Each team had a player booked for a yellow card. Orlando’s Emily Van Egmond was carded in the 58th minute and Jodie Taylor picked one up for Reign FC in the 73rd minute.
The Reign’s next game is April 27 at the Chicago Red Stars at 5 p.m.
Here’s three things we’ve learned from Reign FC’s hope opener.
Rapinoe on the mend
Rapinoe did not suit up as she recovers from an ongoing calf strain. She said Thursday she hopes to return for the third game of the season at Chicago. That is expected that this game will be the last game for Rapinoe and other U.S. Women’s National Team hopefuls as they start camp on May 4.
Jenkins a surprise scratch
Jenkins participated in team workouts this week but was a late scratch. Reign FC owner Bill Predmore said Jenkins appeared to tweak a hamstring but is hopeful to play at Chicago.
Betos comes up big
After giving up a tough goal in the game’s sixth minute, Reign FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos was lights out. Betos faced 11 total shots and made several stops, including diving saves, to keep the game tied.