The 2018 NWSL season is upon us, and we here at RSLSoapbox could not be more excited to see our newest hometown team, Utah Royals FC, take the field for the first time. But how are they going to line up and what can we expect to see from each team offensively and defensively? Let’s dive in and look at some stats and a few other things that might give us some clues.
Utah Royals FC
As the Royals prepare for their first game, we still don’t know a lot about them and exactly how they are going to play. They played two preseason games (both wins) but neither were televised or broadcasted in any way, which gave us very few looks at how they have been preparing. Below are a few points I have found in my research that might shed some light on what we will see from the Royals:
- Similar tactics and playing ideas as RSL - One of the things I found most interesting when researching for this article was Royals head coach Laura Harvey making an appearance on the most recent episode of the Mike Petke Coaches Show. While she was there, she talked with Mike and Dunny about how she shares a lot of the same ideas of how soccer should be played with Mike. My interpretation of that, reading between the lines? Fans familiar with the ball and player movement styles that RSL strives to play with will see a lot of similarities from the Royals when they are on the field.
- Likely to play 4-2-3-1 - From the few glimpses we have gotten from the team in training and preseason games, as well as the roster makeup and Laura Harvey’s past managing, it appears that the Royals will be lining up in the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation that we have come to see from RSL under Mike Petke.
- Goals! - I would expect to see goals from the Royals in this game. Here are a few reasons why I have that expectation: First, Seattle Reign (Laura Harvey’s former team) scored 43 goals in 2017 in 24 games, good for an average of 1.79 goals per game. Secondly, the majority of the Royals roster (15 of 24 players to be exact) played last year for the Kansas City Team that scored 42 goals in 24 games, good for an average of 1.75 goals per game. Finally, last week we saw the Royals win a preseason game against UCLA (commonly considered one of the premier college women’s soccer teams in America) by a score of 4-1. All of these things lead me to believe that it won’t take long for the first goal in Royals history to be scored.
In 2017, the Orlando Pride were the offensive juggernauts of the NWSL. They scored 45 goals in 24 matches, good for a 1.875 goals per game average. They took 255 shots in 24 games, giving them a 10.6 shots per game average. And they are pretty accurate, too: 133 of their 255 total shots were on frame (52.15%), and they had a 33.8% shot conversion rate in 2017 (45 goals on 133 shots on goal).
What does this mean? It means that the Royals are definitely going to have their defensive work cut out for them. The Pride attack has only improved in the off-season, as USWNT forward Sydney Leroux Dwyer was traded to the Pride by the Royals at her request, joining fellow USWNT forward Alex Morgan in a prolific attack. I would fully expect the Royals to focus on defending first, and then moving forward in the attack.
OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – D45), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – D45), Amy Rodriguez (right knee – D45)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Katrina Gorry (AUS)
OUT: Camila (right torn ACL and MCL sprain – D45)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Alanna Kennedy (AUS), Emily van Egmond (AUS)
Utah Royals FC: 4-2-3-1
DF: Moros, Sauerbrunn, Corsie, O’Hara
MID: Smith, Matheson
MID: Tymrak, Jónsdóttir, Lytle
Royal’s Keys to the Match
- Defend as a team - against the top NWSL offense from 2017, the Royals are going to have a solid defensive performance from all 11 players on the field. I think that the team will be well prepared for this.
- Representing the organization well - I had the opportunity to sit next to Laura Harvey in the press box during the RSL-LAFC disaster game, and it was clear from her comments and reactions during that game that she has bought into the organization as a whole and was invested in the outcome of that game. I fully believe that she will have her team 100% prepared for this game to prevent anything similar from happening.