Reign Continue to Make Signings as Season Resumes in North Carolina

By: Justin McMullen
Posted: June 18, 2021

OL Reign Sign Defender Jimena López

OL Reign have announced yet another new signing this week, this time inking Mexican international Jimena López to a three-year deal after initially drafting her in January’s college draft. 

“Jimena is a tremendous player who will make an impact with our club this season,” said OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti. “Her decision to sign and play in Spain shows her ambition and her desire to be the best she can be. She gained valuable experience playing many matches with Eibar, which will help her make a positive transition to the NWSL.” 

The left back opted to begin her career overseas, spending a season with SD Eidbar in the Spanish Primera División. López logged in 1,361 minutes over 16 matches, scoring one goal for the 13th-place club. López also has 23 senior caps for the Mexican national team, starting 21 times and scoring two goals for El Tri.

Reign Return to Pitch with Broadcast TV Clash against North Carolina

While the Reign did not play last weekend due to the FIFA international window, several of the club’s players kept busy, appearing on the rosters of Canada, the United States, Brazil, Costa Rica, Japan, Mexico and Wales. OL Reign will return to the pitch for a 4pm clash with North Carolina Courage on Saturday. The two sides have already met this season, playing each other to a scoreless draw in the season opener. Benstiti is not focused on making wholesale changes to his approach from the teams’ first meeting. 

“Not too many things will change,” said Benstiti. “North Carolina needs points too, and they will try to keep their qualities … and we will continue our way.” 

Benstiti said he is comfortable with his team’s progress in installing their play style, and that he would prefer to stick with his preferred plans rather than constantly shift tactics based on the opponent. 

“We have a style now that we understand,” said Benstiti. “We can keep the ball and be very good with the ball. We’ve created many opportunities and we have to follow our way. Defensively, I think we are stronger. We have to figure out the free kick and the corner kick, to be maybe more determined in the box, but we will continue, because we really want to play and not to be always [adapting to other team’s play style.]” 

Benstiti stressed the need for his team to stay compact and well-organized defensively to allow the midfielder and forwards to press offensively and maximize chances in the final third. Reign forward Leah Pruitt broke down what she saw as keys for the match during the Reign’s midweek press conference. 

“We just know that our transition needs to be faster because we help defend, so we need to just be able to turn over quick and find the balls up high,” said Pruitt. “I think just finding that wide space and then making the good runs in the box, because sometimes I even just run in there just because I just want to create havoc, but just being more sneaky in the box and finding the right runs and just being able to read our teammates’ crosses and just be very dangerous in the final third.”

The match at Wakemed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina will be played on a larger pitch than what the Reign are used to at home in Tacoma. Pruitt sees the expanded surface area as a positive. 

“The big field will probably be good for us because we’re going to have a lot of space in behind to be able to make runs and get into the box for our teammates, so I think it’s going to be good and we’re going to be very [offensive] this weekend,” said Pruitt. 

While the two teams met in early May, both have since added to their rosters, giving each squad a different complexion heading into the reverse fixture. The Reign have signed several stars from clubs overseas, including midfielders Rose Lavelle and Dzsenifer Maroszán, as well as goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, the latter two from parent club Olympique Lyonnais. The Courage, for their part, were able to reacquire star US international Sam Mewis after a spell at Manchester City. More acquisitions are on the way for OL Reign as well, with OL forward Eugénie Le Sommer and Paris Saint-Germain defender Alana Cook having inked deals with the Tacoma club this season. Maroszán and Bouhhadi arrived in Washington this week and, not surprisingly given their stature within the sport, have pleased the gaffer so far. 

“They make the level higher, and that makes our youngest players and the other players better,” said Benstiti. Le Sommer will come too, Alana Cook will come too. This is perfect for us because everybody will focus to go higher and to try to be more competitive, that’s very good for us.” 

Saturday’s match will be given a larger platform by the league’s broadcast partners, with CBS opting to air the match on their broadcast network rather than putting the game on streaming. Pruitt is excited for the opportunity to showcase her club and the NWSL on broadcast television. 

“I think we’re just going to go out and play how we always will play, but it is super exciting and just makes us want to bring it that much more, because we know that there’s a lot of eyes on us,” said Pruitt. “So we need to show them what they can see and just do awesome so that everybody that’s viewing us can see how exciting women’s soccer is.” 

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