There’s nothing quite like the feeling of attending a season home opener at Lumen Stadium, and for the fans of OL Reign, the April 15th clash against the San Diego Wave FC was no exception. A record-breaking crowd streamed into the stadium hours ahead of the match, with fans taking plenty of time to secure snacks and beverages before settling into their seats in anticipation. Aspiring young soccer players lined the vomitorium (the entrance to the field), excitedly waiting and hoping for the opportunity to ask their favorite players for autographs and fist bumps. The energy was electric.
The crowd surged to their feet as the players ran onto the field, scarves waving madly in a strong ripple around the stadium as fans screamed and cheered for their city’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). OL Reign started strong in the first half, building the pressure on San Diego while simultaneously playing a solid defensive game. Captain and defender Lu Barnes was noted for her outstanding performance, as well as defender Sofia Huerta for creating more opportunities against San Diego than any other player on the pitch that evening. At halftime, the score remained 0-0.
Going into the second half, fans appeared to be anxiously waiting for a game-changing shift; goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce stepped up to this challenge and denied San Diego their opportunity in the 49th minute. The back-and-forth action continued as both teams fought to get ahead of the other, but in the 73rd minute the momentum shifted again, this time in clear favor of OL Reign. Forward Megan Rapinoe subbed onto the field, and the stadium erupted. It was as if every person both on the pitch and off knew what was coming. There is an electrifying expectancy that happens among the Reign players and fans alike when #15 (Rapinoe) is involved; players appear to move quicker and with more confidence, and the energy from the crowd grows and swells, as does the volume within the stadium. It was a surreal experience to witness.
Photos by Jane Johnson
And it inevitably made the difference. With time running down on the clock, goalkeeper Tullis-Joyce made another massive save for Seattle, stopping San Diego’s forward Alex Morgan from settling one in the back Seattle’s net. The roar from the crowd was deafening as OL Reign’s offense acted with even more urgency. With only minutes left on the clock, midfielder Olivia Van der Jagt scored her first-ever regular season goal in stoppage time to secure the win, OL Reign 1-0 San Diego Wave.
Since that Seattle home opener, OL Reign has gone on to dominate the Chicago Red Stars in a 5-2 win and earn a 2-2 comeback draw against Racing Louisville. OL Reign is unbeaten in its last four games, with two games at home and two games on the road, earning a total of 10 points (3-1-1). Megan Rapinoe now has 48 career goals all-time, ranking her at the sixth-most goals in league history. Goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce currently sits with 80 career saves all-time, which ranks her fourth in club history. Bethany Balcer now has 25 goals all-time, which places her tied for second most in the league. These are your OL Reign legends.
OL Reign is scheduled for another midweek game this Wednesday, May 3rd at 7:00 pm at Lumen Field and then again on Saturday, May 6th at 3:00 pm. You can buy tickets at https://www.olreign.com . Don’t sleep on Seattle sports; show up and make it Reign!