On Sunday, the Columbus Eagles play the team’s first home Women’s Premier Soccer League match of the season. Coming to town is Interstate-71 rivals, the Cincinnati Sirens. While divisions within the WPSL can change season by season, and players just as frequently, there’s still an edge between the two sides.
Columbus hasn’t beaten the Sirens in a WPSL match since May 19, 2018, when a forfeit earned the Eagles a 5-0 default victory. To find a win in competitive play, fans have to go back to June 24, 2017, when forward Dani Gunderson led the Eagles to a 4-2 win. The match had extra importance as it was the last time the Eagles played a match in historic Crew Stadium.
To add some extra tension to this match, Columbus does have some recent success against the Sirens that Cincinnati can use as motivation. In the Premier Arena Soccer League indoor season, both teams played in the final week of the season, to crown the winner of the Great Lakes Conference title. The Eagles avenged an earlier PASL 7-3 loss with a 19-2 victory that can use all the adjectives in describing the one-sidedness of the contest.
Sunday is the first outdoor match of the year for Cincinnati. Columbus comes in with one match under the team’s belt, but has a lot of lessons to learn from the 6-0 loss to Lady Victory FC last weekend.
While the score was not flattering, the first match of the 2021 WPSL wasn’t all bad for the Eagles. Goalkeeper Hannah Sargent stood out, making big saves on the goal line that kept the score from looking more lopsided. In the second half though, interim head coach Mark Wise substituted Sargent for youngster Emily Keck. In the match recap, Massive Report listed Keck as the keeper who gave up the final goal, but that was due to difficult camera work at the stadium, and an announcer error listing a substitute that hadn’t happened yet. Keck didn’t allow a goal and made the save of the match in the closing minutes.
“She is fine and had a great game,” said Wise said of Sargent and explaining the substitution. “With the scoreline as it was, I felt it best to get Keck some minutes to see how she would do under pressure. She also did a great job during her time in goal.”
A reason for all the needed work was a newly put-together Eagles’ backline. Outside of Monique Reventlow, there were three newer players on defense. As the season progresses, and the players grow more familiar with each other’s movements on the field, the defense will improve. That wasn’t the only area of concern in the match. The midfield had trouble sustaining any long-term possession.
Lady Victory had four midfielders against the three for Columbus. With the pressure of the home side, the Eagles’ fullbacks weren’t able to find length down the sidelines, as designed. Then, after fighting sustained pressure for the first 25 minutes, the lack of Columbus match fitness showed.
Like the defense, it takes time to improve in that area. The Eagles don’t get the added benefit of a month of preseason conditioning. When Lady Victory FC comes to Columbus later in the season, expect a different match. Traveling rosters are a big part of the equation too, and Eagles supporters will see a variety of different players available Sunday, as opposed to last week.
Up to 500 supporters can buy tickets for the match. The Eagles will play at Grove City Christian High School, before moving to Capital University for the team’s final four home matches. For those that can’t attend in-person, the match will stream live on the team’s website.