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There are few managers more synonymous with success than OL Reign’s Laura Harvey. In a league currently dominated by a constantly moving carousel of open coaching positions, the original manager of the Seattle Reign has endured, leading the team to their first NWSL Championship appearance since 2015.

Known for her humor, candor and proclivity for sitting on an ice cooler in the coach’s box during games, Harvey is already an iconic figure in NWSL history.

When you speak to her players, Harvey’s strengths as a manager are reflected in their words. She’s described by forward Megan Rapinoe as “the best manager I’ve ever had,” and by defender Sofia Huerta as the only coach she’s had that “knows what they’re talking about, and really cares about the players.” Midfielder Jess Fishlock says her managing style is “just successful, man. It works. It’s such a respectful way of working.” And defender Alana Cook says “she looks after us as humans before players.”

All players say that Harvey is the person who sets the culture upon which everything in the locker room is based. And if the Reign win the 2023 NWSL Championship by defeating Gotham FC in San Diego on Saturday, it will be because they leaned further into that culture rather than turned away from it.

Harvey is the longest-tenured coach in the NWSL, even after stepping away from the Reign from 2018-21. NWSL coaching positions as a whole have become difficult jobs to hold in recent years, either due to off-field misconduct or on-field results.

Harvey has the staunch support of her players for the way she treats them off the field, but the Reign also could be rewarded for patience with results over the years. Harvey famously has led the Reign to three NWSL Shields, an honor many on the team feel is more reflective of a truly successful season than the two- or three-game playoff run to the championship. But the team has also become synonymous with struggling in the playoffs, falling to lower seeds in recent years after earning top-two finishes in the regular season.

Consequently, Harvey’s record in knockout matches has seeped into the conversation about her reputation as a manager over time. Prior to 2023, Seattle had won only two playoff matches in the club’s history — two semifinals in 2014 and 2015. In both of those postseasons, the team fell in the championship match to Vlatko Andonovski’s FC Kansas City, and until this year had not registered another postseason win despite making the semifinals every single season from 2018-22.

Harvey’s knockout record (and her old coaching battles with Andonovski) have followed her, especially after Andonovski was named manager of the U.S. women’s national team in 2019. Harvey, who’d made the jump to become a coach at the U.S. development level in 2018, was considered a contender for the USWNT job after Jill Ellis stepped down in the aftermath of the 2019 World Cup victory. But Andonovski had the consistent record in playoff matches, one of the closest equivalents to international tournament play available at the domestic level.

Fast forward to 2023, and Harvey’s name again was in the mix for the USWNT job after Andonovski struggled to continue the program’s history of excellence with a disappointing Olympic and World Cup run. And once again, the well-respected Seattle coach appears to be left on the shortlist, with reports indicating that the job will go to current Chelsea manager Emma Hayes instead. Hayes, like Harvey, has a history of excellence at the club level, but she also has domestic knockout tournament wins in the FA Cup.

So if the Reign appear to go out of their way to win for their manager on Saturday, the intensity is warranted. The Reign have doubled their playoff win count in 2023, with two assertive victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals. And Harvey’s players have been steadfast in their desire to get over the top of that one final hill and earn their manager the respect they feel she deserves.

(Jane Gershovich/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“I actually think a lot of people still underrate Laura Harvey as a coach anyway, which is absolutely mind-boggling to me. I don’t understand what else she needs to do,” says Fishlock, who has played for the Reign since their founding in 2013. “Laura has a structure. She knows what she wants, she has her principles, but within that she has fluidity.”

The Reign are known to play some of the most beautiful, free-flowing soccer in the league, stringing long series of passes together to find an opening in the opponent’s defense and put the ball in the back of the net. They’re also strong defensively, with well-drilled pressing triggers that can set an opponent on their heels.

That consistency has been a clear asset to the Reign’s ability to rule the regular season, but Harvey’s players similarly credit their communication structure and steady principles with their ability to execute in the postseason.

“She’s very tactical but also is able to put together a really good group or lineup per game, depending on who shines,” says Emily Sonnett, who has flourished as a holding midfielder for the club after spending most of her professional career as a defender.

She credits the Reign coaching staff with not overcomplicating the game plan, a helpful tool when a player is getting used to a new position: “Laura and the coaching staff have done a really good job of each game [asking] ‘What is actually needed, and can we accomplish that?”

Harvey communicates with the team through her leaders, notably the Reign’s original three of Fishlock, Rapinoe and defender Lauren Barnes.

“She doesn’t really have an ego like that, and really wants that collaboration, and really relies especially on us older players to be her lieutenants out there,” says Rapinoe, who says she wants her final professional game to be a win for her manager almost more than she wants it for herself. “She’s always pulling us in and wanting our opinion, and allowing us the space to be f—ing annoying and ask a million questions all the time. But she empowers us to do that.”

Both the Reign’s desire to win and the tools are clearly there, and have been for years. But the players’ execution of the game plan, Rapinoe says, has let Harvey down in the past more than her own preparation as a coach.

“The thing about Laura, she’s always gonna get up and own the entire loss,” Rapinoe says. “But I think a lot of the knockout games, we’ve just played terrible and haven’t shown up as players.”

“I think being a coach is really difficult,” Huerta echoes. “It’s really hard to have success as a coach, because when the team loses, it’s your fault. [But] the team wins, and the players played amazing. I think it’s hard to be in that position. There’s a lot of turnover, I don’t think a lot of people are on your side. But we’re on Laura’s side. She’s a good coach, she’s really one of the main reasons we’re here.”

(Michael Thomas Shroyer/USA TODAY Sports)

Harvey’s principles have guided the Reign to this point, but it’s their newfound ability to play a less beautiful, more punishing style that the team feels could earn them the trophy they’ve long been searching for.

“This year, I don’t think really anybody on the outside envisioned us being in the finals,” says midfielder Rose Lavelle. “And I think we maybe had more of a chip on our shoulder that helped us get here.”

To win an NWSL Championship, the Reign will have to be willing to endure touchy passages of play and lean into their defensive identity against the consistently dangerous Gotham FC attack.

“I think obviously you want entertainment, you want goals, you want flair,” says Cook. “But I think we can make our living on just being solid in that regard and being organized, being hard to break down.”

In other words, it’s possible that this version of OL Reign looks and plays more like a knockout-round winner than any other Reign team in the past. Through injury and absence, they’ve found a toughness that hasn’t always been a part of their identity.

“I think just the overall grit and discipline of the squad this year took a really big step, which is really necessary,” says Rapinoe.

With newfound confidence in their ability to weather the storm, the Reign feel ready to prove they can join the ranks of NWSL champions and forever take the asterisk off the legacy of their manager. Because in the NWSL final, it doesn’t always have to be pretty — you just have to end on a win.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock, in her 11th year in the NWSL, has seen the Cascadia rivalry between Seattle and Portland naturally evolve, with every individual result adding to a larger arc of history. Some of the biggest personalities in the NWSL have filled in the lineups on both sides, with Fishlock as one of the rivalry’s original members.

Speaking to Just Women’s Sports, the 36-year-old rattles off a quick list of players who have graced the matchup in the past: Herself, Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Barnes, Sydney Leroux and Hope Solo on one side, and Lindsey Horan, Tobin Heath, Emily Sonnet and Allie Long (the latter three have now played for both teams) on the other. Over the years, tackles came in a little bit harder, and competition felt a little more personal.

“It was definitely more of like, we were at each other’s throats more,” Fishlock says. “I definitely think that the rivalry itself has evolved more to which team is performing better in that moment, as opposed to us wanting to just rip each other’s eyes out.”

Outside of brief loans to other clubs, the Welsh star has been with the Reign since 2013 and has played in many Cascadia battles since the original one. Fishlock remembers both wins and losses, pointing out notable game-winning goals scored by Reign legends Kim Little and Rumi Utsugi. But even the losses carry significance, as reminders of how special the game of soccer can be regardless of result.

“We’ve also lost some games against them that — the games have been incredible. Which you just come off and you just think wow, what a game,” she says

The 2023 Reign aren’t resting on their past laurels. They want to both defend their 2022 Shield-winning campaign and win the club’s first-ever NWSL championship. They currently sit in fourth in the league standings, just two points behind their fierce regional rival and three behind league leaders San Diego. The Reign travel to Providence Park on Saturday with hopes of leapfrogging Portland and contending for the top of the table.

Immediate goals are in sight, but as a veteran player who has stayed at one club for her whole NWSL career, Fishlock can also take a moment to appreciate the impact of the Cascadia rivalry on women’s soccer in the U.S.

“I think it just has so much history for one,” she says. “I feel like this league, the franchises and the teams and the way that league works probably lacks a little bit of history.”

It’s an intense history informed by a regional dislike between Portland and Seattle, as with so many other American sports rivalries. But the Reign try not to let the larger storylines get in the way of playing like themselves.

“It’s more like, we just hate Portland,” Fishlock says. “And so we just really remember that. We don’t do anything different, we don’t have any kind of rituals. It’s just more methodical. It’s still football, but also, let’s not forget how much we hate Portland.”

In a league that’s in its 10th regular season, the ingrained passions of the Cascadia rivalry have been slow to develop elsewhere in the NWSL. Rivalries have to grow organically, instigated by regional proximity but frequently made real by the play on the field. Fishlock scored the Reign’s first-ever goal against the Thorns in their inaugural clash at Providence Park in 2013, setting the emotional tone for the battles to come.

Ten years later, Fishlock is ready to walk into Providence Park once again and silence the Thorns fans, known as the original tone-setters for local support.

“I think women’s sports, well women’s soccer for example, it kind of really needs that,” she says of the way the Rose City Riveters can change a game. “It needs the fans to kind of buy in to remembering that you’re at this game, but you’re actually supporting your team, and what does that look like?”

Sometimes that support looks like rude gestures and sounds like boos. One of the more recent iconic moments in the Reign’s history at Providence Park came in 2021, when Megan Rapinoe received a classic North End reception after scoring an equalizer in the Reign’s eventual 2-1 win.

“I was trying to talk s–t, and to them, and they just did not know what to do,” Rapinoe said at the time. “And then finally somebody gave me a big, double f–k you middle fingers up, and I was like, ‘That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the kind of rivalry that we want.'”

Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe (right) are playing their last season together after 10 years. (Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports)

Fishlock sees those types of fan responses as part of an overall passion for the game.

“I’m not going to get offended by them flipping me off, I’m not gonna get offended by them booing me, because it’s actually really respectful for the most part,” she says.

“​​So when we go to Portland and they start flipping us off, and they start booing us, and they get super mad that we’re scoring goals, Pinoe’s scoring goals, that’s what we want, really, because we want to have that kind of personality at the end of the day.”

The Cascadia rivalry will be losing some of that personality at the end of 2023, as Rapinoe heads into retirement after this season. She won’t exactly receive a hero’s welcome in Portland this weekend, but the atmosphere will be worthy of a player of her stature.

“We just hope that she goes down there and she gets the stick that she deserves for being Rapinoe and playing for Seattle, but also the love and respect that she deserves for being who she is,” Fishlock says.

For Fishlock, there’s no sign yet of slowing down. She says she is feeling better after being sidelined with a hamstring issue in July and August, and she announced on Tuesday that she’s exercised her mutual option to stay with the Reign through 2024. She sees Saturday’s game as a singularly important opportunity, but she is also locked in on the bigger picture.

“It’s not just about Portland, it’s also, you’re coming up against a really good football team,” Fishlock says. “So you have to play well, and you have to be prepared well, and you have to be ready for a really hard game.”

The veteran admits she always relishes the opportunity to go into somebody else’s house and beat them. The Thorns pulled off that feat at Lumen Field earlier this season, and the Reign are eager to return the favor. They’ll be in hostile territory, but they’ll also be feeling the support from home.

“I think this is a game against the Portland Thorns that honestly could mean a lot and then do a little bit of damage to the opposition with who wins and who loses,” Fishlock says, before addressing the fans. “We need ya, so let’s go.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

With the end of April comes the near quarter-mark of the 2023 NWSL season. The first full month of the regular season brought attacking fireworks, a few key saves and a number of excellent individual performances that deserve recognition.

One player stood out above all the rest, earning our first Player of the Month honor of the season.

Sophia Smith, F, Portland Thorns

Smith started the NWSL season on fire, finishing April as one of only three players to lead the league with four goals in five games. She also leads the league in assists with four, twice as many as the next highest player. With Smith at the helm, the Thorns currently sit alone atop the NWSL standings, still undefeated in regular season play with the greatest goal differential in the league.

In addition to the USWNT star’s first career hat trick against Kansas City on April 1, her other stats support just what a goal-scoring machine she has been for the Thorns in their first five games. Smith leads the league in shots and shots on goal, she’s generated the highest individual xG percentage, and she sits atop American Soccer Analysis’ goals added (g+) estimation by more than three times the amount of the next contender

Simply put, Smith has made it more likely for her team to score goals and earn points than any other player in the league thus far, emphatically earning her Player of the Month honors.

Honorable mentions

April featured many impressive attacking performances, with a number of teams getting results from established stars, some of whom are in new systems with new clubs.

Lynn Williams, F, Gotham FC

Williams has reshaped the Gotham FC attack since coming over in a January trade, scoring three goals in five games. Less than a quarter of the way into the season, Williams has matched the individual scoring output of any Gotham player in 2022.

Jess Fishlock, M, OL Reign

The 2021 NWSL MVP has looked like her typically excellent self in 2023, scoring a brace against the Chicago Red Stars on April 22 while generating attacking chances that have the Reign sitting in second place in the NWSL standings.

Debinha, M, Kansas City Current

Debinha has come on strong late in the month, after working her minutes back up from a lingering injury. She joins Smith and Ashley Hatch as the only players to score four goals thus far, including a brace in Kansas City’s 2-0 win over Gotham on the last day of April.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

OL Reign are leading the NWSL in goal celebrations, with players coming up with new and creative ways to take them to new heights.

Bethany Balcer scored the first two goals in Saturday’s 5-2 win against the Red Stars, and she didn’t disappoint. After the first, she ran to the Reign bench and chugged a cup of fake beer. After the second, she again went to the bench, but this time she used a set of headphones to play DJ, complete with record scratch.

Assistant coach Scott Parkinson helped with both goal celebrations, a trend Balcer plans to continue as the season goes on.

“Me and Scott decided we’re going to have a partnership this year on all the goals,” Balcer said. “When the league steps up their celebrations, we have to, too. And I feel like they’re so fun now. In the past, I’ve felt like, ‘Hoo, I scored a goal.’ But now I’m like, let’s have a little dance party before we go back, because it’s fun.”

Fellow Megan Rapinoe also provided an assist on the second celebration, entering the pitch to hand the headphones to Balcer — and earning herself a yellow card.

Jess ​Fishlock also scored two goals Saturday. After her viral chicken dance celebration in the team’s Challenge Cup opener last Wednesday, she followed that up with another dance, this one inspired by her nephew. He had seen Fishlock do the chicken dance and sent her choreography for her next goal.

Rapinoe, already a known goal celebrator, also got in on the action after her own tally in Saturday’s win. And she’s even inspiring other players, including USWNT teammate Alex Morgan, to join the fun.

“Pinoe always has the best celebrations,” Morgan said on the latest episode of Snacks. “And everyone else is just like, ‘Yayyyy!’ I need help. I need help from anyone and everyone.”

The increased Challenge Cup prize pool spotlights the growth of the NWSL, but the $1 million in prize money also has left some players frustrated — not by the amount, but by its relative worth compared to the NWSL Championship.

While the exact payouts for Challenge Cup-winning players have not been announced, the prize money could outstrip the bonuses players earn for winning the NWSL title.

Washington Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan said Tuesday that she appreciates the increase to the Challenge Cup prize pool, she still finds it “frustrating” that the winners of the in-season tournament could take home more money than the NWSL champions.

Player salaries have increased significantly under the league’s new CBA. Additionally, winners of the NWSL Championship and the NWSL Shield (awarded to the team with the best regular-season record) receive bonuses of at least $5,000, per the CBA.

But with UKG’s new investment in the Challenge Cup, winners of the in-season tournament could earn significantly more. Last season’s Challenge Cup handed out $10,000 each to players on the winning team, the same amount earned by players on the NWSL Shield-winning OL Reign.

“It cannot be more than” the Shield or Championship, OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock wrote on Twitter of the Challenge Cup prize pool. “Those things are ELITE and the Shield is literally the toughest thing to do.”

OL Reign’s 2022 season could be described as a rollercoaster full of highs and lows. The team won their third NWSL Shield and earned a No. 1 seed in the NWSL playoffs, reflecting the consistent excellence the club has come to be known for since the early days of the league.

But once again, they failed to win the biggest honor of all, falling in their second consecutive semifinal after finishing in the top two in the league standings, this time to the Kansas City Current. The Reign have always represented the dichotomy of the difficult task in front of NWSL clubs: Sometimes the consistency that gives you a season-long edge becomes exploitable in the win-or-go-home playoffs.

The Reign have yet to hoist the NWSL trophy at the end of the postseason despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league. Is this the year the original Reign trio of Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Barnes and Jess Fishlock finish a season on a win?

2022 review: All about the timing

Part of what made the Reign’s inability to reach the finish line in 2022 so confounding is they appeared to be peaking at exactly the right time. The team’s Shield win was less a reflection of complete season dominance, and more an opportunity seized at the last minute.

Portland was in pole position for a back-to-back Shield title before dropping crucial points in the final weekend of the regular season. OL Reign, with momentum behind them, grabbed the chance to finish at the top of the table and looked like they had more in the tank for a postseason run.

But then, the same issues that have plagued the Reign for years popped up in their semifinal matchup against the Current. The Reign are experts at moving the ball, controlling games through possession and finding clinical ways to create chances on goal. They arguably are the golden standard for possessive-style football in the NWSL, with a consistency underlined by talent and experience.

Despite the strong build-up play, the Reign had a hard time finishing those chances. The club hit the woodwork more than any other NWSL team in 2022, and while the addition of Canada forward Jordyn Huitema midseason helped, they came up short again in the knockout game. The Reign out-shot, out-passed, out-possessed and held a huge advantage on set pieces in their semifinal, and still saw their season disappear in a disappointing 2-0 loss to Kansas City.

“It’s so tough because you look back on the year, and we had a really good year,” midfielder Rose Lavelle told reporters in preseason. “We won the Shield and that’s hard. That’s like a product of the whole season. But then I think to finish on that last game hurt us all.”

The Reign acquired forward Elyse Bennett and defender Emily Sonnett in the offseason. (Amy Kontras/USA TODAY Sports)

Offseason moves: Staying the course

Despite the disappointing finish, the Reign’s approach to the 2023 offseason was about consistency. Top free agents Rapinoe and Barnes both decided to re-sign with the club — ”It would have taken a catastrophe, most likely, for me to actually leave,” Rapinoe said — and head coach Laura Harvey made strategic additions elsewhere.

“Having the group predominantly back together again was a priority,” Harvey said. As a result, the Reign head into the 2023 season looking very similar to their Shield-winning squad.

The Reign did take the opportunity to sign USWNT defender Emily Sonnett on draft day, after the Washington Spirit offered her in a trade. They also picked up second-year forward Elyse Bennett from Kansas City, bolstering a frontline that will need dynamicism when players are away for the 2023 World Cup.

“Adding someone of [Sonnett’s] quality and experience and knowing how to win in this league could be really vital for us, and adding some depth in our frontline was also a priority to us and obviously [Bennett] fits that mold,” said Harvey. The coach noted that the team didn’t bring in rookies in large numbers, instead focusing on players with track records and the ability to acclimate to the Reign’s style of play.

Harvey also has the ebbs and flows of the international calendar in mind: “We’re constantly looking at, is this the roster that we have for the whole year? Is this something that we can take through to the World Cup, and then we have to manipulate the roster a little bit during the World Cup? And then, what does it look like after the World Cup?

“I sort of think, in World Cup years, you’ve always got those things going around in your mind. But it all started with making sure that we kept the majority of the group together from last year.”

Coach Laura Harvey is a three-time NWSL Coach of the Year with the Reign. (Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports)

2023 Outlook: Finishing the job

The goal in 2023 remains the same as in past years: The Reign expect to compete for an NWSL championship.

“We have just such a talented, young squad. We kind of have all the pieces in place to be really good for a very long time and I think with the foundation of our culture and just how we are here, it could be one of the most attractive places in the world, not just the NWSL,” Rapinoe said.

“But we need to keep building and keep pushing and keep striving and making sure that everything off the pitch is just as good as what’s on the pitch.”

The Reign played preseason games in California, heading to warmer weather as many other clubs did before the season, and will be training at Starfire Sports in 2023 and beyond. While the group has always had a strong locker-room culture, upgrades in resources have proven to be key during a grueling NWSL season, and the Reign are taking steps to keep up with the top clubs in the league.

On the field, the squad is leaning into what’s worked for them in the past, with the intention of making the final push when it matters most.

“The vibes are always so good, and I think I’ve never been on a team like this that it’s just so good and wholesome,” Lavelle said. “It’s such a great group, and I think it makes it so easy to come in and get the job done. I think we’re all on the same page with everything and it’s fun.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

OL Reign teammates Jess Fishlock and Tziarra King announced their engagement Sunday night via Instagram.

The pair shared shared engagement photos to their accounts, and OL Reign teammates Sofia Huerta, Bethany Balcer as well as USWNT stars Ali Krieger, Carson Pickett and Hailie Mace were among those to share their congratulations.

The NWSL stars give the Seattle club just one more reason to celebrate.

OL Reign claimed the NWSL Shield with a 3-0 win over the Orlando Pride in their regular season finale on Oct. 1, so they enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed. They’ll start their playoff run at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday, when they’ll host the No. 5 Kansas City Current at Lumen Field.

Fishlock and King will look to continue their banner month. Fishlock scored the game-winning goal for Wales in extra time against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Oct. 6 in the UEFA World Cup qualifying playoffs.

“I think that was my best and most important Wales goal, probably both,” the 2021 NWSL MVP said after the match.

After the goal, Fishlock ran to the stands to embrace King.

“Idk, y’all might as well start calling me the King consort of Wales,” King joked on social media, posting the video of her and Fishlock in the stands.

Jess Fishlock’s goal in extra time against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday helped send Wales to the World Cup playoff final, where they will face Switzerland on Tuesday for a chance to punch their ticket to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think that was my best and most important Wales goal, probably both,” Fishlock, the 2021 NWSL MVP, told reporters after the game.

This is the first time Wales has reached a major finals, and Fishlock’s celebration was worthy of the moment.

After finding the back of the net with a volley, Fischlock, who plays her club soccer in the NWSL with the OL Reign, celebrated by outrunning her ecstatic teammates, sliding on her back and allowing them to join her in a dog pile.

“It is one of those moments you kind of dream of, and the celebration was epic. I didn’t even know what to do and I ended up sliding, which is not me,” she said. “It was pure emotion we have for each other and pure relief; don’t think I’ve felt something like that before to be honest.”

Then, Fishlock took to the stands. She ran up the stairs and was helped over a divider by spectators in order to embrace her partner and OL Reign teammate, Tziarra King, who had made the trip to support Fishlock.

“Idk, y’all might as well start calling me the King consort of Wales,” King joked on twitter, posting the video of her and Fishlock in the stands.

Fishlock thanked King with a tweet of her own, writing, “Thank you so much for flying over. your constant support for me is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Now you know what the welsh are about. I love you.”

Fishlock’s win with Wales comes less than a week after she, King and OL Reign secured the NWSL Shield with a win over the Pride. It was their first Shield since 2015.

OL Reign’s Jess Fishlock called out the quality of the NWSL’s streaming broadcasts.

The reigning league MVP responded Friday night to a tweet from Victor Araiza of The Striker. In his post, Araiza juxtaposed the difference between MLS and NWSL midfield sideline cameras in matches at Houston’s PNC Stadium.

“Now I know why the twitch stream be twitching,” Fishlock tweeted.

Broadcast quality has been a topic of conversation among NWSL fans and insiders this season, with the league promising streaming upgrades.

In July, the NWSL announced plans to invest in upgrades for all Paramount+ and Twitch broadcasts starting in August. Proposed improvements will extend to infrastructure, staff and higher-quality cameras.

The promise came out of the NWSL’s board of governors meeting in New York in July. In the meeting, the league also revealed that the streaming audience had grown 24 percent compared to last year, spurring the push for development.

In total, 96 games will be streamed on Paramount+ during the 2022 NWSL season, while 24 will stream on Twitch.

Jess Fishlock showed why she is the reigning NWSL MVP on Friday, notching a goal and an assist in OL Reign’s 2-0 victory over North Carolina.

The 35-year-old led the Reign to its first multi-goal win of the regular season, earning her JWS Player of the Week honors.

A Lumen Field crowd of 7,519 erupted when Fishlock secured the matchup’s breakthrough goal in the 52nd minute. The midfielder received a well-placed ball from Bethany Balcer, then took her first touch around the Courage goalkeeper to execute the go-ahead finish into an open net.

Fishlock returned the favor to Balcer in the 74th minute, playing a through ball to the forward, who split the North Carolina center backs before firing off a low shot to the near post.

As displayed by her creation of these two critical chances in the final third, Fishlock orchestrated OL Reign’s attack from the center of the pitch, finding space between North Carolina’s lines. She helped on both sides of the ball, launching two successful long balls, winning 63 percent of her duels and logging a pass accuracy of 67 percent.

Fishlock combined with Balcer, Tziarra King and new addition Kim Little brilliantly in the midfield, foreshadowing a revved-up and renewed Reign attack. While the offense started the regular season sputtering, OL Reign looks increasingly dangerous at fourth in the NWSL standings with Tobin Heath set to join the squad.

After her dominant performance during the club’s Pride Month fixture, Fishlock kept her remarks brief and celebratory, saying: “It was for the gays today.”