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Megan Rapinoe: How OL Reign salvaged ‘weird’ match in playoff hunt

Megan Rapinoe signals for the ball during the second half at Lumen Field on Oct. 1. (Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports)

OL Reign salvaged a standings point in a tight NWSL playoff race despite an admittedly “weird” game against the North Carolina Courage on Sunday.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw. That result allowed OL Reign to maintain its hold on the sixth and final playoff spot with 28 points, while North Carolina stayed a step ahead with 29 points thanks to a Kerolin goal just before the half.

Minutes after the Courage goal, OL Reign lost Alana Cook to a red card. Down to 10 players, OL Reign needed to tighten up its defense heading into the final 45 minutes.

“That’s all there was, was defending in the second half. That was terrible. It just works out like that sometimes,” Megan Rapinoe said postgame. “We obviously made tactical adjustments and Harv did a great job setting us up. But we just said, ‘It’s gonna be weird. It’s gonna be hard. Just stay together.’

“We put in a huge shift. Obviously that’s not what we wanna be doing for an entire half but to grind it out, get a point at home on a tough night was really big for the team. And obviously it keeps us right in the middle of things.”

To adjust, OL Reign slotted Emily Sonnett in at center back from her usual midfield position. And it worked.

Rapinoe also thinks that the team looked good on set pieces — Bethany Balcer scored OL Reign’s goal off one in the 21st minute. The 38-year-old forward, who has just two regular-season matches remaining in her career, is also proud of the way the team held it together defensively after Cook was sent off.

“Defensively, obviously we were super tough. They’re so difficult to play against,” she said. “So, especially a man down, to be able to keep them scoreless in the second half under a lot of pressure … that was really positive. Just a grit and an unwillingness to lose was huge.”