Any doubts I had last week of whether the Utah Royals FC, with all that talent and experience along with a new coaching style and short time to train together, would be able to find the right chemistry on the field, immediately disappeared in the third minute when Diana Matheson’s beautiful cross to the box found Gunny Jónsdóttir, and the Iceland international slid to get a touch on the ball towards the goal. The buildup involved eight passes between seven different players, so yes, I think the Royals are going to be just fine.
But now, come another trio of “I wonder...” questions when the Royals take on the Houston Dash at 6:00 PM MT this fine Friday evening.
Uh oh. Injuries to Kelley O’Hara and Elise Thorsnes. How will the team adjust?
There’s no doubt about it. These are two key players from last week’s starting line-up that are now sidelined. O’Hara did a phenomenal job of containing Marta as the two went head-to-head on the right-side of the pitch battle in Orlando. Thorsnes had a quieter evening than expected, especially as a Golden Boot winner from Norway, but she still has the potential to become a prolific goal scorer in the NWSL, and I was hoping that this game against Houston would be a breakthrough. Alas, we’ll have to wait.
So how will the Royals adjust? I think they have players who can fill in for those injured players just fine. Sydney Miramontez will likely get the nod to start in the backline alongside Becky Sauerbrunn, Rachel Corsie, and Becca Moros. Katie Stengel, Lo’eau LaBonta, and Erika Tymrak are potential players to replace Thorsnes.
Will there be a change in the formation?
Last week against Orlando, we saw players shift on the field as Miramontez subbed in for Brittany Ratcliffe and played at right back. That allowed O’Hara to move to left wing and Katie Stengel, another second-half substitute, to shift over to striker.
As already mentioned, the Royals are without O’Hara and Thorsnes for this game so that versatility to shift players may be limited. This could force head coach Laura Harvey to make changes to her formation rather than move players on the field. If that is the case, I foresee a 4-4-2 formation.
Will Gunny be awesome again?
Yes. In fact, I’ll be shocked if she does not notch another goal in this game. But Houston now probably knows how good Gunny is after their scouting report and video sessions, so they’ll be marking her well and watching her every move to stop her. Good luck, Houston!
She also took a few tumbles last week as Orlando realized that she was their biggest threat in the box, but Gunny refused to let that keep her from playing, and if that didn’t stop her last week, it sure will not for this game. Expect Gunny to be fit and ready to go.
Cheers, Royals fans! It’s Game Day!