The Pacific Northwest was not good Royals over the past week. With away games against Portland Thorns FC and Seattle Reign FC, both ending in losses for URFC, they return to the RioT tonight in need of a win and three points to keep up in the playoff race. What might we see from the Royals as they attempt to secure the win? Let’s talk!
Utah Royals FC
After the 4-0 loss against Portland, we saw the team come together and perform much better in Seattle, despite still losing 1-0 to the Reign off a corner kick goal from Megan Rapinoe. The Royals will surely have some tired legs tonight, with this being the third game in 8 days, but returning to your home stadium is always helpful and always infuses a little bit of extra energy into your team.
One of the big questions in this game is going to be how the defense lines up. According to the NWSL Injury Report, Becky Sauerbrunn is still listed as out for this game with a left leg irritation of some kind, and Sam Johnson has to sit the game out due to yellow card accumulation. I expect to see Sydney Miramontez join the back line for this match, and we have seen her fill in well in her few appearances so far this year. She will have a big task before her tonight, as the defenders that line up on either side of her will be playing their third full game on short rest and will need support at times.
On the offensive side, we should see the return of midfielder Diana Matheson after serving a one-game suspension during the game against Seattle. I fully expect that she will start, as she will have fresh legs. I also expect to see Katrina Gorry, as she only played 13 minutes against the Reign. We may also see some rotation at the forward position, as both Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez will be on short rest. Maybe this is a game where we see players who have shown promise such as Brittany Ratcliffe and Erika Tymrak get an opportunity to play a full 90 minutes. They would certainly be deserving if coach Laura Harvey decided to go that way.
Perhaps Harvey will start Ratcliffe and Tymrak, and then bring in Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez later on in the game when the Orlando defense is worn out. I can’t imagine too many Pride defenders would be happy to see either of those players coming in late in the game to take them on with fresher legs.
Orlando Pride return to the RioT for the third meeting between these two teams in the 2018 season. Both of those previous meetings ended with a draw between the two teams, so they both will be looking to gain an edge in the overall season series.
The Pride come into this game with an overall record of 7-6-4, good for 25 points and 3rd place in the current league table. In their last game in Houston against the Dash, they lost 3-1, keeping them within the Royals’ reach in the playoff race.
A big tactical point to discuss is the fact that Pride star Marta will not be available for this match after receiving a red card in the dying minutes of Wednesday’s match in Houston. A big question for the Pride will be how do they replace her performance? They may be forced to change somewhat the way they want to play due to her absence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of a flat 4-4-2 from them with Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux as the two forwards.
Another thing to remember that is Orlando is coming to altitude, which may give the Royals a little bit of an edge in the later stages of the game. If URFC can stay compact and last 25 minutes or so should be pretty wide open for them to try and get out and score some goals.
Injury Update (via NWSLSoccer.com)
Utah Royals FC
OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – SEI), Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear – SEI), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – SEI), Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain), Becky Sauerbrunn (left leg irritation), Elise Thorsnes (left hamstring strain)
DF: Bowen, Corsie, Miramontez, Moros
MF: Matheson, Scott, Jonsdottir, Gorry
FW: Press, Rodriguez
Royals’ keys to the match
- Isolate Marta’s replacement. Replicate the play that Marta brings will surely have a lot of responsibility, as their system is built around her play and creativity. If the URFC midfield and defense can isolate her replacement, it will do a lot of damage to their offensive ability.
- Stay compact and organized and wait for the game to open up. Coming to altitude, Orlando will get tired as the game goes on. If they can stay organized until fatigue starts to set in for the Pride players, they should be able to run and gun for the last 25 or so minutes and get some good looks on goal.