This afternoon at the RioT, Utah Royals FC will play their 8th game of the season against the Houston Dash. URFC will certainly be looking to get the full three points from this game before they head out on the road for 4 straight games. What can the Royals do to secure the win and what can we expect to see from the Dash? Let’s talk tactics!
Utah Royals FC
Through their first seven games in the season, URFC is tied with the Chicago Red Stars for most draws in the league with 5. What has led to their 1-1-5 record so far this season? Mostly it has been good defense. Through those 7 games, they have only allowed 5 goals, which again is tied for the NWSL league lead in that category. Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Corsie, both having played every minute of the season for the Royals so far, have combined with goalkeeper Abby Smith to make a stout defense. But it is truly a whole team effort when it comes to defending. If you go back and watch the game against Orlando again, you will see that there are multiple times in the game when the entire team is perfectly formed in their defensive lines. Team defense is good defense.
On the flip side, the Royals attack has been lagging behind. Having scored only 6 goals through their first 7 games, URFC are currently second to last in the league in goals scored. The good news in this is that we have seen a lot more signs of life in the Royals attack the last couple of weeks. The attacking combination of Matheson, Gorry, O’Hara and Rodriguez have been working very well together and have strung together some excellent attacking looks. O’Hara is out this week with an injury, so it will be up to one of the other forwards to step up and do what they can to make up for her absence.
Another great spark in the offense has been right back Brooke Elby. In addition to performing all of her defensive duties to help pitch the shutout against Orlando, she also led the team with 3 shots. She is a very attack minded fullback, with the energy, fitness and pace to get back on defense quickly, even if she is higher up the pitch. She spent a few weeks on the injury roster and while she was there, the Royals attack struggled. With her healthy again and back on the pitch, we have seen the offense improve. As long as that continues, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her knock in a goal or two before the season is over.
Houston currently sit 7th in the league table, just one spot below URFC with 7 points from 8 games and a record of 1-3-4. Through their first 8 games, the Dash have scored 7 goals and conceded 12. It’s that second number that should bring Royal’s fans some hope of a positive outcome in this game. The Dash are tied for last in the league in goals against.
One thing to know about Houston is that so far, their scoring has been by committee. Their 7 goals scored have been scored by 6 different players, with striker Rachel Daly being the only player that has scored more that once this season. This means that the Royals are going to have to be constantly present defensively, and really look to break up any interplay that Houston tries in the final third.
Injury Report (via NWSLSoccer.com)
Utah Royals FC
OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – SEI), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – SEI), Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain), Elise Thorsnes (left hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None
QUESTIONABLE: Linda Motlhalo (right knee sprain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: None
DF: Elby, Sauerbrunn, Corsie, Moros
MF: Scott, Jonsdottir
MF: Matheson, Gorry, Ratcliffe
Royals’ keys to the match
- Keep in good defensive positions. URFC have been strong defensively so far, and as they continue to execute coach Laura Harvey’s gameplan, they will continue to have success.
- Find a way to turn quality chances into actual goals. It’s time for the Royals to start hitting the back of the net. Turning 1 or 2 quality chances into goals is all that is stopping the Royals from being one of the strongest teams in the NWSL.