With half the season already complete, Real Salt Lake Women (2-2-0, 6 pts) still have plenty of time left to keep their hold on the top spot in the West Conference of United Women’s Soccer, and the chase for maximum points takes another step tonight as RSLW welcomes long-time opponents Houston Aces to Utah Valley University for the only time this season.
The Aces have been a club since 2012, and have been a regular fixture on the Claret-and-Cobalt ladies schedule since then. Though they are now second to the Dash of the NWSL in the Houston women’s soccer scene, they still boast a strong roster of capable players. Most notable among them are twin sisters Tatiana and Natalia Ariza, who play midfield and defense respectively, and midfielder Isabella Echeverri, all of whom make regular appearances for the Colombian WNT.
They also have an impressive ability to play very strongly on the road, winning more frequently away from Houston last season, which means RSLW needs to be prepared to control this match from the opening whistle and avoid letting the Aces get comfortable in possession. Despite losing their last match 1-0 to Santa Clarita, the RSLW offense has started to click over the last three matches, outscoring their opponents 8-1 over that stretch. Paced by USWNT U-23 star Hailey Skolmoski’s 4 goals, and the high workrate and creativity in the midfield, the hosts will look to add to their conference-leading 8 goals, and rely on the solid defense provided by Natalie Norris, Aleea Gwerder, and keeper Becca Ritchie to keep Houston off the scoresheet.
The Aces are the only team RSLW has yet to face this season, with the final match of the season being the return leg in Houston. This adds importance to securing three points at home, as once again RSLW will finish their 8 matches and then have to wait and see how the final standings play out. Their two losses already place a premium on getting as many wins as possible over the second half of the season to stay ahead of the other teams who all still have games in hand.
This is the next-to-last home match of 2017 for RSLW, and it’s another chance to make a winning weekend for the RSL Family with the Monarchs also in action tonight. Kickoff is at 7 PM in Orem, and we’ll have the full match report here on RSL Soapbox.