Preseason: Racing Louisville vs. OL Reign

Racing Louisville and OL Reign met in Portland’s Providence Park as the preseason tournament hosted by the Portland Thorns continued on Wednesday evening.

After facing a tough, late-game 1-0 loss to the Thorns over the weekend, Racing Louisville surprised OL Reign by coming out on top 2-0. First, Louisville draftee Kayla Fischer came in hot after getting subbed in at half-time and scored the first goal in the 50th minute. Fifteen minutes later, Jess McDonald capitalized off a poor back pass and got a toe in to knock the ball past keeper Laurel Ivory and tapping the ball into a wide-open goal.

Both teams played heavily rotated squads although Racing opened the game with more starters than OL Reign. Interestingly, as the game went on, Racing continuously removed starters like Savannah DeMelo, Abby Erceg, and Carson Pickett while OL Reign added them by subbing in the likes of Emily Sonnett, Rose Lavelle, Jordyn Huitema, and Tziarra King. And yet Racing was still able to hold them off to earn a clean sheet. Preseason

Racing had 11 shots overall (6 in the first half and 5 in the second) while OL Reign had 10 total shots (2 in the first half and 8 in the second). This shows that Seattle did improve offensively in the second half as their typical starters subbed on, but Racing remained fairly steady.

This game marks the first time Racing has ever beaten OL Reign. Last season, they drew each other in both their regular season games but lost out to OL Reign in the championship match of the Women’s Cup friendly tournament in August.

McDonald goal celebration
Jessica McDonald celebrates her goal with Kayla Fischer who scored earlier – Image courtesy Taylor Vincent Preseason

Racing’s Takeaways

This is another solid preseason performance from Racing versus a team they’ve historically struggled against. The Thorns are the reigning league champions and OL Reign are the shield holders, so to lose one match in the final minutes by a single goal and win the other by two goals are very positive developments for Louisville.  Although this is preseason and both teams had rotated rosters, a win like this is exceptionally important to building confidence in a team that’s integrating a bunch of new team members.

In positive news for Racing, big off-season acquisitions Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett seem to be integrating into the team seamlessly. They already look like they have good chemistry with their teammates, including fellow newcomers midfielder Ary Borges and defender Elli Pikkujämsä.

Pikkujämsä is a member of the Finland national team and has started both preseason matches in Portland next to Erceg. She’s looked sharp in both of them and made a number of key clearances and blocks in each match that have kept attackers from breaking through to take keeper Katie Lund on one-on-one. She also got to demonstrate that she’s a fully capable holding midfielder after slotting in the six after Jaelin Howell went down in the first half with a hamstring injury. Preseason

The injury to Howell is certainly a blow to Racing. After going down clutching her hamstring, she was able to walk off the field without assistance. Coach Kim told reporters that she assured him she was fine, but that it would still be a few days before they knew the extent of the injury. Even a hamstring strain could keep her out of matches for four to six weeks, so it’s certainly a relief for Racing to have an able backup in Pikkujämsä.

The other big news of the match is the fact Uchenna Kanu was able to make her debut for Racing after finally joining the team on Tuesday. As a relatively late sub in the match, she didn’t have a large number of touches but she was able to get her head on the ball for an important clearance and she helped put together some attacks that forced clearances from OL Reign. Mostly, however, she was able to demonstrate the speed and agility she’ll bring to Racing’s front line as she integrates into the team.

Emily Sonnett with the clearance
OL Reigh’s Emily Sonnett blocks Uchenna Kanu from advancing – Image courtesy Taylor Vincent

OL Reign’s Takeaways PreseasonRE

Despite probably being greatly frustrated by this loss, OL Reign doesn’t have any real negative takeaways from this match.

It’s clear that, at least early on, the whole purpose of this match was to test their depth. OL Reign will have a high number of important players gone for swaths of the season for international duty so seeing how these players fare against another NWSL team is critical.

Overall, the players that started the match did fine and held Racing to a 0-0 draw in the first half. Although they only got off two shots and one corner kick compared to Racing’s six shots and four corner kicks, they still kept a clean sheet and put in a generally solid performance. Preseason

Almost immediately after Racing’s first goal, however, OL Reign began subbing in starters. The fact that they weren’t able to do more than create a few half-chance opportunities to test keeper Katie Lund is likely frustrating, but not enough to raise alarm bells. Figuring out these issues is the entire purpose of participating in a tournament like this one.

In interesting formation notes, Emily Sonnett came in at the 62′ and played in central defense after playing as a defensive midfielder last weekend against the U.S. U-23s. Most surprisingly, however, was the fact that Alana Cook was subbed on in the 84′ to play offense. Whether this was a true attempt to try her in a new position or just a way to get her minutes while testing another backline is unknown, but it is moments like this that make preseason matches so interesting.


Racing Louisville (4-3-3): 1 – Katie Lund; 16 – Carson Pickett (59’ 44 – Satara Murray), 20 – Abby Erceg (78’ 23 – Trinity Watson), 4 – Elli Pikkujämsä, 3 – Zaneta Wyne (59’ 5 – Paige Monaghan); 6 – Jaelin Howell (c) (39’ 25 – Rebecca Holloway), 7 – Savannah DeMelo (46’ 9 – Kayla Fischer), 8 – Ary Borges (59’ 2 – Lauren Milliet); 14 – Jess McDonald (78’ 29 – Uchenna Kanu), 21 – Parker Goins (59’ 22 – Kirsten Davis), 27 – Alex Chidiac (78’ 77 – Wang Shuang)

OL Reign (4-3-3): 18 – Laurel Ivory; 22 – Ryanne Brown (46’ 14 – Jimena Lopez), 17 – Sam Hiatt (62’ 2 – Emily Sonnett), 25 – Shae Holmes (84’ 3 – Lauren Barnes), 20 – Alyssa Malonson (71’ Sofia Huerta); 7 – Nikki Stanton (84’ 4 – Alana Cook), 33 – Olivia Van Der Jagt (62’ 13 – Marley Canales), 12 – Olivia Athens (62’ 16 – Rose Lavelle); 24 – Veronica Latsko (71’ Natalie Viggiano), 8 – Bethany Balcer (c) (46’ 9 – Jordyn Huitema), 34 – Elyse Bennett (62’ 23 – Tziarra King)

Next Matches

Both teams are back on Saturday, March 18th when Racing will take on the U.S. U-23s at 8 PM ET /5 pm PT while OL Reign will play the Portland Thorns at 10:30 PM ET /7:30 pm PT. Preseason

Tournament Schedule


All photos courtesy of Taylor Vincent

Bekki Morgan

Covering Racing Louisville on the Beautiful Game Network and the central NWSL teams on Co-host of Butchertown Rundown: A Racing Louisville Podcast. Find me on Twitter @bekki_morgan and my pod @ButchertownR.