Reign Look to Right the Ship in Orlando

By: Justin McMullen
Posted: July 23, 2021

(Image courtesy of OL Reign twitter)

OL Reign will continue their two-game road trip with a match against the Orlando Pride on Saturday, hoping for a positive result after a week, and arguably a season, during which the fates have not gone the team’s way. 

The Bold’s last effort in Chicago ended with a 3-1 loss to the Red Stars last weekend in which the visitors were forced into allowing two own goals. Bethenny Balcer, the Reign’s lone goal scorer who opened up the match in the 12th minute by knocking in a cross from Celia Delgado Jimine, is listed on the Reign’s injury report as questionable with a left ankle issue for Saturday’s match. Midfielder Jess Fishlock (right hamstring) and defender Sam Hiatt (illness) are also questionable.

The Reign opted to forgo travelling home to Tacoma after the Chicago match, instead opting to go directly to Orlando. “I think acclimating to the time and being able to stay here and train just makes things a lot easier than having to travel back after Chicago and the turnaround being two days or so coming back out here,” said Reign defender Lauren Barnes. 

Despite best laid travel plans, bad luck has once again struck the team in their Orlando preparations. Thunderstorms in the Orlando area have prevented the team from training all week. “We’ve done some very, very light stuff because of the weather,” said OL Reign interim head coach Sam Laity.  “You can either be a  survivor or a victim,” said Laity. “We don’t have time, where we’re at right now as a team and as individuals to be a victim.”

Despite the continuous run of misfortune, Laity is stressing his side’s need to take it in stride and keep a positive attitude, and are not relying on fate to turn the team’s season around. 

“If luck comes our way we would happily accept it, but we are certainly not in a position where we are waiting for the ball to drop to the opposite side of the line,” said Laity. “We are in control of our own destiny.” 

One positive aspect of the team’s long road trip, Barnes said, is that it gives the team a chance to jell together amid a tumultuous season — one that has seen the squad underperform their way to ninth in the table out of ten teams and part ways with manager Farid Benstiti —  and offers an opportunity for its leaders to impart wisdom on the younger players. “It does give us a lot of time to reconnect, refocus and continue to build on what we want here at the Reign,” said Barnes. 

Due to the aforementioned injury issues and fatigue among the squad, Laity said he anticipates the team sheet looking quite different between the Chicago and Orlando matches. The Reign also continue to deal with a shortened roster as a sizable group of the club’s players are off in Tokyo representing their countries in the ongoing Olympic tournament. 

“I don’t want to do this, but I think we’re going to be looking at four or five changes for this game,” Laity said. 

The matchup between the Tacoma-based club and the Pride will feature an irregularity as both sides will be managed by interim head coaches; Laity continues to be in charge through the Olympic period ahead of incoming coach Laura Harvey’s return to the club, while Carl Green will understudy for Orlando. Green will also leave the club after the match, as the Pride announced the departure of Green and head coach Marc Skinner for Manchester United on Friday, one day before Saturday’s match. 

“It’s pretty strange, if I’m being honest with you,” said Green on the interim-versus-interim fixture. “I don’t know how often that would’ve occurred.” 

OL Reign and Orlando Pride will square off on Saturday, July 24 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, FL  at 7pm eastern. The game will be broadcast on the league’s Twitch channel.

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