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Tactical Preview: Utah Royals FC vs NC Courage

The Royals are still looking for their first win after offensive disappointment the last few weeks

Roscoe Myrick

Still looking for their first win in franchise history, this week Utah Royals FC travel to North Carolina to take on the NC Courage, who have started off the season red hot with four consecutive wins. What can the Royals do to slow down the Courage attack and perhaps score a few goals of their own? Let’s jump in and take a look!

Utah Royals FC

Coming into this game, Utah has shown a lot of promise, but has yet to deliver the full product on the field. Last week against the Chicago Red Stars in front of a packed Rio Tinto Stadium, the Royals fell behind 1-0 and despite looking good and creating chances were never able to find an equalizer.

The first thing that jumped out at me last week was shot accuracy. URFC took 13 shots against the Red Stars, and only one of those 13 shots was on goal. Three shots were blocked, and nine shots were just not on frame. If the Royals want to score goals and win games, they are going to have to become more accurate with their shooting.

The next thing that I noticed that I’m sure the Royals are going to want to improve on this week is their passing percentage. Their passing completion percentage last week against the Red Stars was 70.7%. While this is not an abysmal percentage, it’s not a good one either, especially for the possession-oriented style of play that Laura Harvey likes to play. I would fully expect that the Royals have been spending a lot of time this week talking about needing to take better care of the ball when it is in their possession.

The biggest thing to remember is that the Royals are still a new team, and they are still working on putting everything together. We have already started to see flashes of what this team can become, and I am confident that they will continue to improve as the season progresses. If the Royals can continue to progress in their cohesion and smart play, they will still end up doing very well this season.

NC Courage

The Courage come into this game having won all four of their games thus far this season. Three of their four wins (coincidentally, their three home games thus far) have come by a score line of 1-0. Their one away game thus far saw them come out on the top of a 4-2 goal-fest against the Washington Spirit. That seems to be an anomaly in a typically low scoring game trend for the Courage. According to NWSLSoccer.com, North Carolina won 8 games by the score of 1-0 during the 2017 regular season and playoffs. It would definitely appear that trend has continued in the 2018 season, which goes to show the consistency that NC Courage play with.

Another thing that the Courage are really consistent with is taking a large number of shots each game. Through four games of the 2018 season, North Carolina is averaging 20.25 shots per game. That is a large number for any team, and definitely a number that the Royals are going to want to try and limit if they want to earn three points this weekend.

With 49.8% average possession through four games, NC Courage appear to be a balanced team that can attack and defend well. As the league leaders, they were always going to be a difficult matchup for URFC this weekend, and seeing the numbers we have discussed above gives a good understanding of why.

One advantage that the Royals will have over the Courage this week is well rested legs. URFC has had a full week to train and prepare for this game while North Carolina had to play a midweek game. As the game gets into its later stages, look for the tired legs to begin to show for the Courage, and look for increased opportunities for the Royals to perhaps exploit a late mistake and bag a late goal.

Injury Report

North Carolina Courage

OUT: Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear – SEI), Yuri Kawamura (right knee ACL repair – D45), Julie King (left ankle repair)

QUESTIONABLE: Allysha Chapman (left hamstring strain), Samantha Mewis (right knee strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Debinha (BRA)

Utah Royals FC

OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – D45), Brooke Elby (right knee strain), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – SEI)

QUESTIONABLE: Becca Moros (left calf strain)

INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Katrina Gorry (AUS)

Expected Lineup

GK: Smith

DEF: O’Hara, Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Miramontez

MID: Bowen, Scott

MID: Matheson, Jonsdottir, Labonta

ST: Thorsnes

RoyalsKeys to the Match

  1. Limit NC Courage’s quality shots throughout the game. The first thing the Royals are going to want to do is stay organized defensively and make North Carolina’s attempts difficult. It appears as if the Courage are going to shoot at a high rate regardless of the opposition, so it will be important to force them into taking low percentage shots instead of high percentage ones.
  2. Finish! The Royals will have opportunities in this game. They are going to need to be lethal in their finishing if they hope to come home with 3 points in their pocket.