One week in the books, and now the season moves on as Utah Royals FC prepare to travel to Houston to face the Dash this Friday.
With all of the unknowns and high expectations facing a new team with a great coach and an impressive roster of players, the opening match for URFC started off better than most may have hoped for. After absorbing some pressure from Orlando, a gorgeous cross and quick strike to finish the goal sent waves of excitement through the Utah supporters.
The challenge now is to work on tightening up the loose spots, particularly in the midfield and attack, and start to develop consistency in performances from week to week.
A sense of familiarity
This match may be a bit like watching soccer played in a mirror. Houston is a very different team from past years, with a new head coach and a large contingent of new players. Both clubs began 2018 with a starting eleven that featured only 5 players from the previous years clubs. Houston controlled a lot of the possession against Chicago on Sunday, and once they got comfortable they were rewarded with a goal that came from connecting passes and choosing the right moment to strike.
Had it not been for a late equalizer from the Red Stars, the Dash would have had a third straight season-opening win against the Windy City ladies. Solid in the defense, quick and sharp in midfield, and talented finishers up top are valid descriptions of both teams. There is also an eerie similarity between Kelley O’Hara and English defender Rachel Daly, both of whom are overlapping right backs who can cause problems as part of their team’s offense.
There are a few questions about the health of Royals players coming out of Orlando. Elise Thorsnes had a tough hit that saw her subbed off after an hour of play, and Gunny Jónsdóttir made a tough tackle that looked bad as she limped away, though she was able to finish the match.
The good news for the Royals, as has been mentioned before, is their impressive depth. Lo’eau Labonta, Erika Tymrak, and Brooke Elby would be good options to give some rest to players on a short week, and all three subs from Saturday night could easily slot into the starting lineup. We’ll know more about the health of the team as they continue practice this week ahead of their flight out to Houston on Thursday evening.
HOU: Campbell; Mewis, van Wyk, Brooks, Daly; Shim, Hanson; Keever, Motlhalo, Jordan; Latsko
URFC: Smith; Moros, Sauerbrunn, Corsie, O’Hara; Smith, Bowen, Jónsdóttir; Thorsnes, Matheson, Ratcliffe
When: Friday, March 30, 6:00PM MT
Where: BBVA Compass Stadium — Houston, TX
Weather: Partly cloudy, 75 degrees
Broadcast: KMYU, KSLTV (delayed to 9:00 PM MT), 100.7 FM, go90 (live broadcasts)
Referee: Elton Garcia