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Fine margins: OL Reign 1, San Diego Wave FC 0

Late goal sinks San Diego’s bid for a gritty result.

NWSL: San Diego Wave FC at OL Reign Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Wave FC’s quest to beat OL Reign for the first time will have to wait at least one more game, after falling 1-0 on Sunday in NWSL regular season play at Lumen Field in Seattle.

Rose Lavelle had the breakthrough 15 minutes from time for the home side, as San Diego struggled to hold possession in long spurts of the game and struggled even more to get shots on frame to test OL Reign’s defense.

There weren’t any surprises coming in for San Diego’s XI on the day. Kaleigh Riehl maintained her spot in central defense with Abby Dahlkemper remaining out due to fractured ribs, and Kelsey Turnbow was back on the bench after serving her suspension last week.

The opening minutes were cagey on both sides, with the teams sharing possession but struggling to find good looks on goal.

But OL Reign started to get possession and Veronica Latsko set up Bethany Balcer in the 22nd minute off a misplayed clearance from Naomi Girma. No goal, however, as Wave FC GK Kailen Sheridan made the sure-handed save off Balcer.

San Diego started to come back into the game in the later stages of the 1st half, and a few minutes before halftime, it looked like Alex Morgan may get yet another breakaway shot attempt after she intercepted a pass from Lavelle, but Morgan could not get a clear path to goal and she was stymied that time around. A couple minutes later, she managed to unleash a shot from the left flank, but it sailed wide of the far post.

The game was scoreless at the halftime break, with OL Reign controlling the run of play until the final seven minutes or so, when San Diego took better control of the ball. Despite that, the home team held the edge in shots on target, 2-0 in the first 45.

OL Reign were lively to start the 2nd half, with a couple half looks in the opening minutes to try and find the breakthrough. With OL Reign close to running San Diego ragged in midfield, the visitors managed not to break in the back, and reigning NWSL MVP Jess Fishlock exited the game just after the hour mark with an injury.

San Diego’s first subs came in the 62nd minute, with Amirah Ali entering for Sofia Jakobsson and Turnbow replacing Jodie Taylor.

OL Reign finally got their goal in the 75th minute. After Morgan fouled Ally Watt deep in the corner, Sofia Huerta’s free kick service reached Lavelle, whose diving header looped over Sheridan into the goal to make it 1-0.

Taylor Kornieck had a header of her own a few minutes later off a San Diego corner kick, but it went straight into the hands of OL Reign GK Phallon Tullis-Joyce. San Diego got more purchase on the ball in the dying minutes as they pushed for an equalizer, but they couldn’t get the goal needed to grab a rather shock draw.

Marleen Schimmer entered the game in the 86th minute in place of Kornieck. In the 88th minute, OL Reign nearly iced the game on a counterattack, but Tziarra King’s open shot sailed wide, keeping hope faintly alive for Wave FC.

Frankly, the way this game unfolded for San Diego was they were playing for a point most of the way. While the defense and goalkeeping was strong this time and it took a special goal to beat them, the midfield was totally overrun all day, no match for OL Reign’s midfield. In the end, that was the difference in the game, as the OL Reign midfield dictated play, and San Diego spent most of the match defending instead of pushing forward to try and take advantage themselves. I think this game was progress for them in terms of facing OL Reign, and I think their ability to deal under considerable defensive pressure for long stretches could do them good in the long run, but this was a performance that just wasn’t at the level of the opponent, all in all.

Wave FC are next scheduled to be in action next Saturday, when they take on the Kansas City Current for the first time, in Kansas City. It’ll be the teams’ first meeting, so we’ll see who gets the upper hand.

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