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

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 right through the 24th minute. Leah Pruitt would make it 2-0 with a goal in the 51st minute. 

The win didn’t have an effect on the league table as the Verizon Community Shield was once wrapped up ahead of this match. The Portland Thorns, Houston Sprint, and Washington Spirit walked absent with prize grants for native businesses and organizations of their choosing by finishing in the top three spots. For OL Reign, the win was once 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, meantime, end their participation with two points with two draws.

Here is what to realize 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 retain things level early.

Sofia Huerta scores opening goal: The home side continued quick transition play when Shirley Cruz was once provided huge 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 once in a position to extend the Reign’s lead in the second one half and was once in a position to strike the ball past Smith for second goal from the home side.

Notable performances

Let’s rate one of the vital 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 crusade in a short window of games. In her first year as a member of the Reign, she was once tasked with establishing play for the midfield. Her ability to both initiate and hold up play to allow her teammates to receive into dangerous positions will likely be a benefit to the team next season Her link-up play with Bethany Balcer and Sofia Huerta was once 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 right through the abnormal 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 deal with 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 business/waiver window closes and likely sets off the beginning of an active offseason in NWSL. 

Oct. 22 (1 p.m. ET): Commerce/waiver window closesOct. 22 (5 p.m. ET): All in the past unannounced trades announcedOct. 29 (5 p.m. ET): End-of-season process deadlineNov. 4 (5 p.m. ET): Secure list is due from clubs to NWSLNov. 5 (1 p.m ET): Secure/unprotected lists distributed and made publicNov. 12 (Time TBA): 2020 NWSL Expansion DraftNov. 13 (9 a.m. ET): Commerce window opens
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