Midseason Stumble: Racing Louisville Falls 0-2 to OL Reign in Tacoma
Racing Louisville suffered another goalscoring drought in their 0-2 loss to the OL Reign in Tacoma on Saturday night. This is the second consecutive game they’ve been shut out after giving up two goals. Many had hoped that July would be a month for Racing to make some progress in the standings due to all other teams missing players for the Olympic Games. Alas, this was not meant to be with Louisville facing three 0-2 losses and a single 1-1 draw over the course of the month.
Although Racing kept OL Reign on their backfoot through the first 25 minutes of the match, a stunning goal from Eugénie Le Sommer in the 27th minute left Racing unsettled. Another goal for Le Sommer just before the end of the half proved to be too much for Racing. While Racing had a better second half and put together some good plays over the course of the match, they still lacked the clinical finish needed to put away points. As a result, Racing stays in ninth place with a 3-2-6 record and 11 points overall while OL Reign gained ground in eighth place with a 5-6-1 record and 16 points.
“Tough game and a tough loss,” said head coach Christy Holly after the match’. “I think the second half — and large parts of the first half — were a reflection of the team we want to be on a consistent basis.”
Goalkeeper Michelle Betos agrees, remarking that there are no easy games in the league. The key to winning, according to Betos, is putting in a consistent 90-minute performance. While she admits she hasn’t seen too many of those yet this season, she’s still seen some really good performances the team can build from.
“We just have to stick together and get better every day. We’ve talked about the process from the beginning and we’re not going to lose sight of that.”
Despite two tough losses in a row, Holly still sees signs of improvement in the young side. In particular, he talks about the team’s flexibility and their ability to adapt to new formations and changing positions over the past few weeks. He also highlights the fact that Racing is increasingly competitive with each match. Both possession and the number of shots taken continue to remain consistently higher than they were earlier in the season.
“We’ve kind of moved from a team that just kept ourselves in the game just through hard work. But now we’re getting ourselves in the game and matching that hard work with the talent we know we have throughout the roster.”
By The Numbers
Racing split possession 50/50, which continues their trend of controlling the game better compared than they had earlier in the season. However, much of their passing was in their own defensive end. Improvement in this area is always good and obviously better than regressing back to 40%, which could have happened against a traditionally possession-oriented team like the Reign. But does possession matter if you’re not getting results out of it?
Still, when looked at over the course of the season, Racing is moving in the right direction. After some ghastly numbers early on, they’ve finally come close to having their expected goals for surpass – or at least break even with – expected goals against.
I know the results have been disappointing but there really has been some significant movement in the right direction for @RacingLouFC on offence and especially on defense over the past 5 or so games pic.twitter.com/OUlWomgvSd
— Zach Allen-Kelly (@ZachWAllen) August 1, 2021
Racing is continuing to get a good number of shots off. Racing had a total of 17 shots this match, equaling their highest total ever. They also had a good number of chances created with 13 this match versus the Reign’s nine.
On the downside, Racing only had two shots on target. This demonstrates that clinical finishing is Racing’s primary stumbling block at the moment.
This was never going to be a particularly easy game. While the OL Reign have spent large parts of the season in eighth or ninth place, they have been vastly underperforming considering the personnel on their roster. Le Sommer, Dzsenifer Marozsán, Jess Fishlock, and Sarah Bouhaddi are international stars. Bethany Balcer and Tziarra King are young, rising talents in the NWSL. Racing was unlucky to meet OL Reign for the first time just as they’re finding their stride.
“What I hope we take away as a group is we can play with anyone in this league,” said goalkeeper Michelle Betos. “You look at Reign and where they are in the standings right now — I don’t think that’s reflective of the kind of team they are. From one to 10 in this league, every team is good, and every game is going to be a hard game.”
As discussed last week, the quantity of shots has finally gotten to a satisfactory level. Now it’s time to focus on the quality. They’re getting good looks on goal, but they’re just not putting them away. However, if they continue to get good looks, one would assume the goals would eventually start coming. This was only Nadia Nadim’s first start and Ebony Salmon has only been on the team for about a month. As they settle and build chemistry with their teammates, the offense will likely continue to improve.
“Odds are we’ve had a couple of games of not scoring so odds are we’re scoring in the next one and the one after that,” said Betos. “That’s what we have to keep pushing for.”
There had been some hope that July would provide a breakout opportunity for Louisville as all other teams in the league had starters missing for the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, that has not been the case as Racing holds a 0-3-1 record for the month. As a result, August will be a big month in determining Racing’s fate for the season. This is the month where positions in the standings will start to solidify and any feasible road to the playoffs may be decided.
“We have a really big August,” remarked Betos. “I believe the goals will come. I believe the points will come. We just have to stick together and get better every day. We’ve talked about the process from the beginning and we’re not going to lose sight of that.”