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Tactical Preview: Utah Royals FC vs Seattle Reign

In their first ever meeting with Seattle Reign FC, how will the arrival of Christen Press in Utah affect the Royals’ tactics?

Cindy Lara - RSL Soapbox

Tonight, Utah Royals FC return to the RioT from their four-game road trip to take on the Seattle Reign FC in their first meeting of the season. With Seattle just two points ahead of the Royals and currently in a playoff position, a win here would vault URFC to sole possession of the 3rd spot in the league table. What will we see from the teams tonight? Let’s talk about a few points.

Utah Royals FC

The first and biggest question for the Royals is how are they are going to integrate new arrivals Christen Press and Samantha Johnson into the team? Press brings an offensive prowess that URFC are definitely in need of, so I fully expect her to start in this game. Johnson has the tough task ahead of her of proving to Laura Harvey that she is a better option on the back line than the current league-leading defense. I don’t expect to see her starting the game, but I would not be surprised at all to see her on the bench.

How is Christen Press going to fit into the URFC attack? Do we see her slot into one of the wing positions and otherwise everything remains the same, or will we see some tactical changes designed to help the attack flourish some? Luckily, we have received a little bit of insight into what Laura Harvey’s thinking on this might be thanks to a recent interview with Christen Press. She was asked about playing with Amy Rodriguez, and she commented that she was excited because she had never spent any significant time playing in a two-front with ARod. She then quickly added, “Or any other formation for that matter.” This has led us at RSL Soapbox to think that a tactical change is coming, and that we may well see the Royals come out in a 4-4-2 formation of some kind, with Rodriguez and Press paired together up top.

If this formation shift is true, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if we see the Royals come out in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Desiree Scott holding, Diana Matheson and Katrina Gorry in the wide midfield roles, and Gunny in the attacking role under Rodriguez and Press. This formation would put all of Utah’s current best players on the field together, and give them the opportunity to improve on an offense that has largely just been treading water so far in the season.

Regardless of what formation comes out in, fans are excited for Press to play and make her impact on the team. As I said before, I expect her to start the game tonight, and I expect that there will be a very large cheer from the crowd when her name is announced.

Seattle Reign

Seattle come into this game with a 5-3-4 overall record on the season, good for 19 points and a current tie for 3rd place in the league table. They have scored 14 goals on the season and allowed just 12, which is the second best goals allowed average in the league, behind Utah Royals FC.

The Reign are led by USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe, who has 5 goals and 1 assist to her name so far in the 2018 campaign. Other players to keep an eye on are attacker Jodie Taylor and Beverly Yanez, who have combined together for 5 goals and 1 assist.

Seattle typically come out in a 4-3-3 formation, with Rapinoe, Taylor and Yanez making up the front three. They play an aggressive front line, with #9 forward Jodie Taylor leading the league in offside calls with 24 through 12 games. That is something the Royals back line will definitely have to be aware of.

Injury Update (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)

Seattle Reign FC

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Lauren Barnes (concussion), Kiersten Dallstream (left quad strain), Jess Fishlock (right quad strain), Jaycie Johnson (right knee sprain – D45)

Expected Lineup

GK: Smith

DF: Bowen, Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Moros

DM: Scott

MF: Matheson, Gorry

AM: Jonsdottir

FW: Rodriguez, Press

Royals’ keys to the match

  1. Integrate Press into the attack and get forward! The biggest struggle for the Royals this season has been to consistently score goals, having only scored 10 goals through 12 games.
  2. Be aware of the high-pressing attack from Seattle. If the Royals can communicate well, then they should be able to pull the offside trap against the Reign effectively.