After months of anticipation, preparation, and excitement, the day is finally here. The Utah Royals FC face the Orlando Pride to kick off their inaugural season.
The anticipation comes from the excitement surrounding this team. In just four months, the Royals have become one of the most exciting teams in the NWSL. Much of that has to do with how the team came together as RSL ownership and a community welcomed a new team and how 14 players from the FC Kansas City roster embraced the vision in Utah. Along the way, trades brought US National Team member Kelley O’Hara, NWSL veteran Taylor Lytle, and Canadian international Diana Matheson. A Dispersal Draft gave three Boston Breakers a new home, and international players like Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir from Iceland, Elise Thorsnes from Norway, Katrina Gorry from Australia, and Rachel Corsie from Scotland were signed to boost the Royals.
The team trained and prepared for a month during the preseason with two exhibition games, both victories against collegiate teams BYU and UCLA. And now, the day for all the work and dedication to pay off has arrived. The Utah Royals take on Orlando at 5:30 PM MT to begin their NWSL season. Here are three things to be on the look out for:
All that talent, but how will it affect team chemistry?
The Royals come into the NWSL season with 11 players with international experience. In addition to the international resumes, the remaining players are NWSL veterans. So we know this is an experienced squad. The question now is, how will all that talent translate onto the field?
Additionally, 14 of those players played together in Kansas City, but there is now a new team dynamic with new players brought in through trades and international signings along with a new coaching style that is different from FC Kansas City’s approach. We can expect some growing pains, but it should not be of concern.
Defense focus: Contain Marta and Alex Morgan
The Orlando Pride have the partnership of Marta and Alex Morgan that was one of the major reasons the team was successful in 2017 towards their first postseason. Last year, Marta was second in the league in goals (13) and assists (6). Alex Morgan scored nine goals and recorded four assists in just 13 games she played for Orlando. Together, they make for a dangerous combination. Last season, Marta was really good at finding Morgan in the box, and if Morgan gets an opportunity, she can easily finish.
The goal for the defense will be to contain these two playmakers. Should they be successful, the Royals can leave Orlando with a victory.
Royals players to watch
Elise Thorsnes - The Norway international is a phenomenal striker, coming to the NWSL with three Toppserien goal-scoring titles from Norway. She is someone Harvey will expect to score goals for the Royals.
Kelley O’Hara - Fans of the US Women’s National team know that O’Hara is versatile. She can play outside back and move up the flanks to create opportunities in the attack. She is used to making runs to help the defense and offense.
Desiree Scott - Known as “The Destroyer” for her physical presence in the midfield, Scott can provide the support to the forwards with angled passes and runs as well check for opposing forwards making their run towards the final third.
What about you, Royals fans? What are your curious about as the Royals kick off their season?