Racing Louisville FC earned a hard-fought 2-2 draw at OL Reign on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle, registering its first point of the 2022 National Women’s Soccer League regular season.
Racing (0-1-1) started on the front foot, with long-time NWSL star Jess McDonald scoring her first regular-season goal for her new team in the 23rd minute. OL Reign scored two goals in a four-minute span toward the end of the first half to take the lead, but Savannah DeMelo’s dangerous free kick took a deflection off an OL Reign player and crossed the goal line, ultimately winning the point for Racing on a difficult road trip.
“In the end, we were not far away from three points,” Racing coach Kim Björkegren said, “but one point in Seattle is not that bad, either. I’m proud of the girls. Overall, (it was) a good performance.”
OL Reign entered Sunday’s match on a tight turnaround after losing in the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals on Wednesday, but the team had been red-hot coming into the week. The Seattle-based club posted the best record in Challenge Cup group play, outscoring opponents 11-5 in winning four matches and drawing two.
But it was Racing that started hot at Lumen Field, pressing OL Reign into a number of early giveaways that almost yielded goals. Second-year attacker Emina Ekic came close to scoring in the seventh minute when her header required a goal-line clearance from Reign’s Sofia Huerta.
The breakthrough came 16 minutes later. DeMelo intercepted a pass near midfield and found Cece Kizer in a pocket of space some 45 yards from goal. Kizer dribbled all the way to the edge of the box before laying a pass directly to McDonald’s feet. McDonald, the fourth all-time scorer in National Women’s Soccer League history, took one touch and curled in a 17-yard, right-footed shot around the outstretched arms of OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce.
“My only job was to create space between me and the central defender, and that’s what I did,” McDonald said. “(Kizer) played my back foot and I was able to handle it and curl it into the far post. That’s part of my repertoire. One of my strengths is getting a touch on the ball and curling it into the far post. It was nice to be able to work on one of my strengths in a goal and having it work in a game.”
Reign’s Tziarra King equalized 10 minutes later on a breakaway, and her second goal of the day in the 37th minute pushed the home team ahead.
Racing regained its composure in the second half, applying similar pressure over various stretches of the 45 minutes, with Lauren Milliet narrowly missing from eight yards out in the 56th minute.
Four minutes later, DeMelo’s set piece from just outside the right corner of the box required a save from Tullis-Joyce, but the goalkeeper could only parry the swerving ball in traffic, and a Reign defender knocked the rebound just over the goal line for Racing’s second goal.
Racing came close to taking the lead on a few occasions, and goalkeeper Katie Lund made an excellent, tie-preserving save on Rose Lavelle’s 72nd-minute effort from 18 yards out by diving low to her right to parry the shot.
“We had good energy out there,” Kizer said. “We were pressing them high and getting opportunities early in the game and again in the second half. … It was a good performance and one that we’re happy with, even though we made some mistakes. We’re excited and ready to build on the performance today.”
Racing now has six days to prepare for its much-anticipated home opener against the Houston Dash at Lynn Family Stadium at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14.
Emina Ekic re-entered the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the season opener. It was the first NWSL regular-season start for the second-year attacker since Aug. 29, when she was in the XI against the Houston Dash.
Versatile veteran Lauren Milliet earned her first start at fullback on Sunday, starting out left in place for star defender Emily Fox, who missed the game because of a left leg injury. Milliet carries the club record for minutes player over its one-plus year of existence, and she made her 30th start across all competitions.
Jess McDonald has now scored an NWSL regular-season goal for six clubs, with Sunday’s finish standing as her second since joining Racing this offseason. She scored her first Racing goal on April 16 against the Houston Dash in the Challenge Cup.
Game Summary: Louisville City FC vs. OL Reign
Date: May 8, 2022
Venue: Lumen Field (Seattle)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET
Weather: 54 degrees, partly cloudy
Player of the Match: Savannah DeMelo
Racing Louisville (1, 1, 2)
OL Reign (2, 0, 2)
Racing Louisville FC:
23’ Jess McDonald (Cece Kizer)
60’ Bethany Balcer own goal
33’ Tziarra King (Angelina)
37’ Tziarra King
Racing Louisville FC (4-2-3-1): 1 – Katie Lund; 2 – Lauren Milliet, 4 – Gemma Bonner (c), 15 – Julia Lester, 17 – Nealy Martin; 6 – Jaelin Howell, 7 – Savannah DeMelo (90’+1 22 – Kirsten Davis), 8 – Freja Olofsson; 14 – Jessica McDonald, 5 – Cece Kizer, 13 – Emina Ekic (62’ 9 – Ebony Salmon)
Subs not used: 24 – Jordyn Bloomer; 3 – Erin Simon, 26 – Addisyn Merrick; 12 – Taylor Malham, 19 – Taylor Otto; 21 – Parker Goins, 23 – Sh’Nia Gordon
Head Coach: Kim Björkegren
OL Reign (4-2-3-1): 91 – Phallon Tullis-Joyce; 3 – Lauren Barnes (c), 17 – Sam Hiatt, 4 – Alana Cook, 11 – Sofia Huerta; 5 – Quinn, 10 – Jess Fishlock (78’ 33 – Olivia Van der Jagt), 6 – Angelina (74’ 14 – Jimena Lopez); 16 – Rose Lavelle, 23 – Tziarra King (55’ 8 – Bethany Balcer), 7 – Ally Watt (78’ 24 – Veronica Latsko)
Subs not used: 18 – Laurel Ivory; 2 – Nikki Stanton, 12 – Olivia Athens, 19 – Sinclaire Miramontez, 21 – Phoebe McClendon
Head Coach: Laura Harvey
Racing Louisville FC / OL Reign
Shots: 15 / 16
Shots on Goal: 5 / 9
Possession: 48.3% / 51.7%
Fouls: 9 / 12
Offside: 1 / 4
Corner Kicks: 1 / 3
65’ Katie Lund (yellow)
64’ Bethany Balcer (yellow)
70’ Angelina (yellow)
Referee: Karen Callado