It was going to happen eventually.
Utah Royals FC made it through eight matches with only one loss, and none of them had happened away from home. That changed with a 2-0 loss as the team started their four-game road trip with a match against the Portland Thorns on Friday night. Here’s what we learned.
Still not complete
It’s not just the challenge of losing one of your best players to injury. The Royals are still very much a work in progress, and in a tough league like NWSL where the outcome is never guaranteed, that can make it difficult to find success against more experienced rosters in the comfort of their own home. Portland has a unique environment with their large and noisy crowds, artificial surface, and physical style of play. They took advantage of it, and URFC was unable to recover once they fell behind.
Moments of promise
The chances were there though for the Royals to come away with at least one point. Amy Rodriguez and Desiree Scott nearly put goals in, and the attack wasn’t completely missing. If anything, the two goals were more the result of the normally stingy defense getting beat, something you definitely won’t see often from this group. Portland is a team that presses hard and high at times, and the quick counters can expose even the best defenders.
Issues in goal(?)
I’m not the type to become overly harsh on individual players, but I will say that there have been some moments where you can see that Abby Smith is still a young goalkeeper. She has the potential to earn more starts this season than she had in her two previous years with Boston Breakers combined, and that’s a lot of pressure for a young player. She’s been up for it, making some fantastic saves, but she’s not quite at the level where she’s winning games for the team in the moments where her defensive line breaks down. It still seems like something of a shame if Laura Harvey doesn’t opt to use Nicole Barnhart once or twice this season, and it may be beneficial to Smith to take a step back and analyze her mistakes so she can progress and reach the level her that her potential promises she can.
Watch your step
When in Portland, be sure you don’t get in the way of the host team’s victory celebration. That’s the message some fans sent after the match as they voiced their displeasure at the “classless and dangerous” actions of the URFC players who did their post-match running and apparently ventured into forbidden territory on the north end of the field. We’ll be sure to put ropes on our field to keep undesirables out next time. (Just kidding, we’d never do something like that.)