OL Reign tops Chicago Red Stars, 3-2, in Challenge Cup upset

OL Reign tops Chicago Red Stars, 3-2, in Challenge Cup upset

OL Reign earned their first victory in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup on Tuesday night, claiming victory over the Chicago Red Stars, 3-2. It was the third overall victory under Reign manager Farid Benstiti, who elected to make some changes to his starting lineup.

As for the Red Stars, it’s back to the drawing board to prepare for the regular season after recording two draws and two losses in the tournament. Chicago and the Washington Spirit were the two sides to wrap up their respective Challenge Cup campaigns on Tuesday.

All eyes were on the Reign in Tacoma, Washington, on Tuesday night. The match also included the return of Megan Rapinoe and Jess Fishlock to the starting lineup. Lauren Barnes made her first appearance of 2021 after sitting on the bench for the first two matches. Bethany Balcer took a spot on the bench in order for Benstiti to switch around some starters.

Chicago did kick off the scoring and began the match on a positive note. The attacking players disrupted the Reign defense and in the 38th minute, Mallory Pugh scored her first Red Stars goal, off an assist from defender Casey Krueger. However, just a few minutes later, Sofia Huerta equalized for her first tally of 2021 and the Reign’s first goal of the year.

In the second half, both sides took some time getting re-acquainted with each other. In the 70th minute, Leah Pruitt netted her first Reign goal, with the help of a Tziarra King assist. Pruitt was named the Player of the Match for the Reign after the contest, while King claimed the league’s Player of the Match title. King had a goal of her own in the 87th minute, picking up a pass from Shirley Cruz — who did some weaving around with the ball — and slotting it past Alyssa Naeher.

Chicago did attempt to mount a comeback in the first minute of stoppage time, with Morgan Gautrat sliding a shot past Reign goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. However, Chicago turned the ball over and the Reign dribbled it out to end the match.

What’s Next?

Chicago will dust off their record from the Challenge Cup and prepare for the start of the regular season, which begins on May 15. The Red Stars will take on the Portland Thorns on May 16 at Providence Park.

Meanwhile, the Reign still have one more Challenge Cup match. While first place is occupied by the Portland Thorns, the Reign can finish in a second-place spot with a win over Kansas City, who they face on Monday, May 3, at 8 p.m. ET.