Lydia Williams made a successful debut for the Reign, blanking her former team the Dash 1-0 to keep her club from dropping father behind in the playoff push and making her new coach Laura Harvey the first NWSL coach to win 50 regular season matches. A week earlier the Reign and Thorns squared off with the first club to 50 wins at stake, and the Reign were badly outplayed in a 2-1 loss. But Sunday’s win, the Reign’s 10th in as many all-time matches against the Dash, made Harvey the first coach to reach the milestone.
The match was played in Frisco, Texas outside Dallas with the Dash unable to play and train in storm-torn Houston. The match served to benefit the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
The Dash threw Kristie Mewis, acquired this week from the Red Stars, straight into the starting lineup and she enjoyed some bright moments playing for her third team in three weeks. In the 27th minute she played Janine Beckie but the former 1st round pick had a tricky angle and her shot was easily handled by Williams.
It was Williams’s counterpoint and former teammate Jane Campbell that made an early imprint on the match though. In the 8th minute Bruna Benites fouled Merritt Mathias in the box for one of the clearest penalties of the season. The conversion was not as straightforward as Campbell dove left to deny Jessica Fishlock and then grabbed Rumi Utsugi’s rebound.
Campbell escaped two other close calls shortly after the Williams save on Beckie. In the 31st she made a poor pass out of the back that turned into a Fishlock chance but the rookie keeper atoned for her own mistake by scrambling back into position to make the save. Off the ensuing corner, Andressinha calmly cleared a ball off the line after it slipped behind Campbell.
Andressinha also created the best Dash chance of the night when, in the 42nd minute, she served Sarah Hagen on a platter from no more than 6 yards out. Hagen was unable to redirect the ball on frame.
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In the second half, Campbell made a splendid save on Mathias in the 48th minute, but had no answer for Mathias’s knuckling shot in the 50th. That goal have the Reign the 1-0 lead they rode to the full-time whistle.
By winning, the Reign (8-7-6, 30 pts; 50-32-25 overall) moved above Sky Blue FC for fifth place and need to get by either the Red Stars or Pride, both of whom are 5 points clear. They will need a result in Orlando on Saturday night to maintain a chance at catching the Pride.
The Dash (7-11-2, 23 pts) are reduced to needing to win out and have the Red Stars lose out while making up a goal difference gap of 14. Anything else will see them miss out on the postseason for the fourth straight year since joining NWSL. Next week’s opponent (Saturday) is North Carolina away and they will make that trip without Bruna Benites who took her fifth yellow card of the season and will serve an automatic suspension.