NWSL Fall Series: OL Reign notch win over Utah Royals in league’s final game of 2020

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The 2020 NWSL Fall Series wrapped up Saturday night, as OL Reign ended their competition on a high note. The Reign notched a 2-0 home win over the Utah Royals at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington. Early fluid combining play between Shirley Cruz, Bethany Balcer, and Sofia Huerta helped set the tempo for the Reign, with Huerta getting the opening goal for the home side during the 24th minute. Leah Pruitt would make it 2-0 with a goal in the 51st minute. 

The win didn’t impact the league table as the Verizon Community Shield was wrapped up ahead of this match. The Portland Thorns, Houston Dash, and Washington Spirit walked away with prize grants for local businesses and organizations of their choosing by finishing in the top three spots. For OL Reign, the win was their first in the Fall Series, and they finished in seventh place with four points on one win, one draw, and two losses. Utah Royals, meanwhile, end their participation with two points with two draws.

Here’s what to know and see from the day’s action:

Top plays

Abby Smith tested early: Reign’s early pressure and quick passing forced the issue when Leah Pruitt got a quick shot on goal with Smith getting help from the post to keep things level early.

Sofia Huerta scores opening goal: The home side continued quick transition play when Shirley Cruz was given vast amounts of space and found Huerta out wide making a run toward the box. She slotted the ball past the keeper’s legs into the net. 

Leah Pruitt connects on goal: Pruitt was able to extend the Reign’s lead in the second half and was able to strike the ball past Smith for second goal from the home side.

Notable performances

Let’s rate some of the notable performances on the day, with one being the worst and 10 being perfection:

Shirley Cruz, OL Reign: The 35-year-old veteran player has put together an impressive 2020 campaign in a short window of games. In her first year as a member of the Reign, she was tasked with establishing play for the midfield. Her ability to both initiate and hold up play to allow her teammates to get into dangerous positions will likely be a benefit to the team next season Her link-up play with Bethany Balcer and Sofia Huerta was active from the first whistle and led to an assist on the opening goal to Huerta. RATING: 8

Sofia Huerta, OL Reign: The longtime NWSL player is with her third club and had to work her way back into form a lingering hamstring injury this year. With limited games in 2020, Huerta had arguably her best performance during the unusual season. She scored the opening goal for the Reign in the 25th minute, but her ability on the ball and pressure on challenges through the match helped set and maintain the tempo. RATING: 8.5

A lookahead

This match concludes the Fall Series. NWSL will have a quick turnaround with an expansion draft on the horizon as Racing Louisville FC begins its transition into the league. Starting next week, the trade/waiver window closes and likely sets off the beginning of an active offseason in NWSL. 

  • Oct. 22 (1 p.m. ET): Trade/waiver window closes
  • Oct. 22 (5 p.m. ET): All previously unannounced trades announced
  • Oct. 29 (5 p.m. ET): End-of-season process deadline
  • Nov. 4 (5 p.m. ET): Protected list is due from clubs to NWSL
  • Nov. 5 (1 p.m ET): Protected/unprotected lists distributed and made public
  • Nov. 12 (Time TBA): 2020 NWSL Expansion Draft
  • Nov. 13 (9 a.m. ET): Trade window opens