The home stand continued with a midweek game and a rematch against Orlando Pride. Here’s a few things we learned from Utah Royals FC’s 0-0 draw:
For the first time all season, Laura Harvey was able to use the same starting eleven players for two matches in a row. Despite playing on just three days of rest, the chance to provide continuity and reward players for an excellent win was too much to pass up.
Even though goals didn’t seem meant to be, the players still looked as good if not better than they did in the 2-0 win against Washington. Orlando would have been considered a tougher opponent by just about everyone even on week 1 when they were a few players short due to international duty, and the return of Emily van Egmond and Alanna Kennedy just makes an already good team even better. For such a strong team that had the ability to add Alex Morgan and Rachel Hill after halftime, a draw isn’t a terrible result.
While we’re mentioning returning Australian players, it must be said that Katrina Gorry has had a big impact since joining the club. We were pretty sure going into the season that defense would be a strong point of this team, but we also felt pretty confident about the rest of the players, only to see the midfield struggle to control the center of the pitch and leave the defenders in some bad spots on occasion.
Enter the Aussie known as “Mini,” who has used her awareness, speed, and passing ability to calm things down and let Gunny Jónsdóttir and Desiree Scott settle in and focus on their assignments. With the midfielders having more control of the match, it has opened up the attack, and we’re seeing more connected passes and chances in the final third as a result.
On a Wednesday night, while school is still in session and with a Monarchs match taking place at the same time, I had concerns going in that it would be a sparse crowd. Despite those potential knocks to the attendance, the stadium was essentially as full for this match as it was on Saturday for the Spirit. Whether it was just a matter of getting that first win and looking like a better team or just the love Utah has for its women’s soccer team, the supporters are to be commended for keeping the Royals near the top of the league in attendance.
Queens of the Level Score
The league record for draws in a season is 9, with the 2015 Chicago Red Stars using those 9 points to help them earn second place in the shorter 20-game season that was played due to the World Cup. Seven matches in, Utah Royals FC already have 5 draws, and could easily break that record. Though we’ll always hope for a long string of wins to finish the season out, there’s hope that a playoff spot isn’t impossible to earn in NWSL if you can avoid dropping points in a match.