The road trip continues! Utah Royals FC will play in their second of four consecutive road matches against Sky Blue FC. This game marks the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, and URFC will surely be hoping to capitalize on Sky Blue’s poor run of form and earn their first road victory. How can they do that? Let’s talk through a few points.
Utah Royals FC
Last week, the Royals struggled to track runs out of the midfield, resulting in both goals that Portland scored coming from their midfield players. Despite allowing two goals in that game, URFC still leads the league with only 7 goals conceded in the 2018 campaign. I am more than willing to look at the Portland game as a one-off situation and expect that the defense will come in ready to earn another shutout, which would tie them for the league lead in shutouts with NC Courage, with 5.
That task will be made harder for the Royals defense with the absence of starting goalkeeper Abby Smith and center back and team captain Becky Sauerbrunn. They, along with forward Amy Rodriguez, have all been called up to the USWNT for upcoming friendlies. Keeper Nicole Barnhart and defender Sydney Miramontez will likely step in to fill these roles, and I expect that they will be ready and prepared for the task before them.
The biggest thing that the Royals need to do is get the ball in the back of the net. They continue to produce good scoring opportunities but are not capitalizing on them. According to NWSL and Opta statistics, URFC is currently second to last in the league in shot conversion, with only 9.9% of their shots resulting in goals. They are also last in the league in shooting accuracy, with only 39.4% of their shots on target. Putting shots on target at a higher rate is going to have to be a point of emphasis going forward.
Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC come into this match with an overall record of 0 wins, 7 losses and 1 draw in the 8 matches they have played so far in 2018. They have lost all 4 games they have played at home. In the eight matches they have played, they have scored 5 goals and conceded 14. As we saw last week with RSL, sometimes playing the weakest team in the league can be the cure for your road woes. Will this happen for URFC as well? We can definitely hope so!
Adding insult to injury for Sky Blue FC, they will be without the services of midfielder Carli Lloyd and forward Savannah McCaskill, who have both been called up to the USWNT for the upcoming friendlies. Lloyd and McCaskill have combined for 3 of Sky Blue’s 5 goals scored, which will leave them feeling a lot more punchless in this game.
The one Sky Blue player that URFC will want to keep an extra eye on is their one other goalscorer on the season, forward Katie Johnson. Johnson plays as a #9 striker, so the communication between URFC center back Rachel Corsie and likely center back partner Sydney Miramontez will have to be good to keep her off the scoresheet.
Injury Report (via NWSLSoccer.com)
Sky Blue FC
OUT: Erica Skroski (right hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Raquel Rodriguez (back spasms)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Carli Lloyd (USA), Savannah McCaskill (USA)
Utah Royals FC
OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – SEI), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – SEI), Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL DUTY: Amy Rodriguez (USA), Becky Sauerbrunn (USA), Abby Smith (USA)
DF: Elby, Corsie, Miramontez, Moros
MF: Gorry, Scott
MF: Tymrak, Jonsdottir, Matheson
Royals’ Keys to the Match
- Get back to defensive success. URFC had a bad game last week and gave up two goals. I expect that they will be extra focused defensively this week, in hopes of showing that their league-leading defense is who they actually are, and the game against the Thorns was just an off game.
- Put the ball in the back of the net. URFC have a great chance to earn their first road win of the season against the team currently at the bottom of the NWSL table. Taking advantage of that opportunity could be key in building up the confidence needed to carry the Royals to the playoffs this season.