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Tactical Preview: Utah Royals FC vs Washington Spirit

What will it take for the Royals to earn their first win in franchise history?

Utah Royals FC huddle
Cindy Lara - RSL Soapbox

With five games of the 2018 season played and their sixth game tonight, Utah Royals FC have thus far been able to keep their heads above water as they strive to find cohesion and understanding among each other. We have seen a few tactical adjustments along the way, and in general, we have seen improvements among the team. Will they be able to make the necessary changes this week to come out with their first win in franchise history? Let’s dive in and talk about a few tactical points to keep in mind for this match.

Utah Royals FC

As mentioned above, we have seen URFC growing and improving their play throughout the season. We have also seen a few tactical changes made, most notably moving Gunny from the number 10 attacking midfielder spot to more of a holding role. These changes seem to be small tweaks that Laura Harvey is making to the team as she gets to know all of the players and their tendencies more, and it appears she is doing a good job with them.

One of the complaints I have heard about the team so far is that they appear to be disjointed, not always knowing where their teammates are going to be and sometimes causing attacks to stall or slow down. I have seen this, but I do think it is something that they are improving. In passing, URFC are third in the league with 2,341 passes (72.5% accuracy).

The Royals, with a 72.5% passing accuracy, are doing a good job finding their teammates with their passes. But where are these passes occurring? That is the real question. The Royals ranks 6th in passes in the opposition half with 1035 passes, 58.6% accuracy.

URFC drops from third in the league to sixth in the league in passing accuracy in their opponent’s half of the field. So while they are doing a good job of finding their teammates in their own half, they are struggling to do so in the attack.

I feel like these statistics lend understanding to the fan complaint that the attack appears disjointed. However, I believe that as the team comes together and continues to learn each other’s playing styles, this number will increase. And when we see this number increase, we will see the goals come at a higher rate as well. As the team settles into a consistent lineup, they will also become more cohesive and dangerous in the attack. Look for all of these things in tonight’s game.

Washington Spirit

The Spirit come into the game on five points from five matches, earning a win and two draws to go along with two losses so far in 2018. As mentioned in our pregame coverage articles already, Washington is a young team with a lot of attacking talent.

In their five games, they have scored 7 goals, so their offense is definitely something to keep an eye on. How do they create their scoring opportunities? By being consistent throughout the field. Washington only completes 69.6% of their overall passes and manages to complete 64.5% of passes in their opponent’s half, leading the league in this statistic. Their attacking play hinges on this connection in the attacking half.

It is also important to point out that through five games, the Spirit have conceded eight goals. As good as their offense is at putting pressure on opposing teams, their defense has shown that they can be beaten and scored upon. That may just be exactly the kind of recipe that the Royals’ attack needs to get their scoring on.

Injury Update (via


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

QUESTIONABLE: Elise Thorsnes (left hamstring strain)


OUT: Rose Lavelle (left hamstring strain), Cheyna Matthews (pregnancy), Arielle Ship (right ACL recovery – D45)


Expected Lineup

GK: Smith

DF: O’Hara, Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Moros

MID: Scott, Jonsdottir

MID: Gorry, Matheson, Thorsnes

ST: Rodriguez

Royals’ keys to the match

  1. Keep Washington’s exciting attack in front of them. URFC have one of the most experienced defensive lines in the league, and they can use that to their advantage against a young Spirit attack. Intelligence and positioning are going to be key, and luckily those are some of the Royals’ defensive strengths.
  2. Take advantage of the Spirit’s defense. If ever there was a game that could help the Royals get their attack going, this is it. At home against a defense that is known to concede goals is the best place to knock a few into the back of the net and earn the first win in franchise history.