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RSL Women vs. Santa Clarita: Match Preview

RSLW are looking for three points against their biggest rivals for the West Conference title.

RSLW-Annie Hawkins
Annie Hawkins dribbles past a defender
Trev Mozingo

The final home match for Real Salt Lake Women (3-2-1, 10 pts) comes in Week 7 of the United Women’s Soccer season, the return leg of the season series against Santa Clarita Blue Heat (4-0-0, 12 pts).

RSL Women have had a decent season so far, but have suffered two losses on the season that make it difficult to keep pace with last year’s champions, who have yet to lose a game or allow a goal. The Blue Heat also, due to the quirks of UWS scheduling, still have half their season remaining to rack up points and potentially claim a second West Conference title.

RSLW missed a chance to pick up points on the conference leaders after a scoreless draw last week in Calgary, with goalkeeper Becca Ritchie making 9 saves and earning a spot on the Team of the Week in preserving the clean sheet. That leaves RSLW with a best-possible finish of 16 points with wins in their final two matches, which Santa Clarita might only need a win and a draw in their last three to pull ahead depending on how the goal differential tiebreaker finishes, with the two teams currently level at +7.

Santa Clarita were the benefactors of a late penalty call against the Houston Aces last week, which Deyna Castellanos slotted home for her first goal of the season. The 18-year-old Venezuelan international has had a quiet season by her standards, being played deeper on the field than her typical #10 attacking midfield position. She rattled the frame of goal a couple times during their 1-0 over RSLW in California, but hasn’t matched the early expectations that followed the announcement of her signing. Also relatively quiet has been the Blue Heat offense. Outside of the opening 4-0 win against So Cal Crush, they’ve only managed 1-0 scorelines in their other three victories, which is a testament to the strength of their defense led by retired Canadian international center back Lauren Sesselmann.

RSLW will rely on their attacking corps to start strongly and test Santa Clarita early. Leading goalscorer Hailey Skolmoski (4) will pace the attack and distribute to Sara Callister (2 G, 2 A), and Colette Smith (2 goals) as the hosts look to do what no other team in UWS has been able to so far this season. It’s a steep challenge, but RSLW has shown in previous matches that they can get comfortable in a match quickly and threaten the opposing goal, being the highest scoring team in the West.

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Mountain on Clyde Field at Utah Valley University in Orem. With both Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs out of town this week, it’s a good opportunity to come see part of the RSL Family play live soccer, and support our top local women’s club.