After dropping two straight in Cascadia, Utah Royals FC returned home with hopes of getting things headed in the right direction, but it wasn’t meant to be on a hot night in Utah with a national TV audience watching. Here’s what we learned from the 2-1 loss to Orlando.
Though the match started off bright with solid play and an early goal for the hosts, things went the other direction for the Royals over the course of the match. After giving up a somewhat soft penalty for the equalizer, URFC conceded the game after Abby Smith was over-aggressive on trying to clear a ball in the defensive third, letting the ball be easily chipped over her for the goal. Laura Harvey said after the game that Smith needs to let the defenders do the work, rather than trying to be too much of a sweeper. The result is a third straight loss, and a team looking for answers going forward.
This was the second match in a row that saw Lo’eau Labonta start in midfield in the place of Katrina Gorry. There’s no obvious reason such as injury or fatigue that is involved, so it’s just a choice Harvey is making either to try and counter the opposition, or perhaps it’s practice related. Regardless, the team plays very differently as a result, including Christen Press spending a lot of time in the midfield looking for ways to be more involved, as opposed to receiving the ball on the forward line and being a threat to score.
Searching for identity
With seven matches left in the season, Utah is running out of time to claim a playoff spot. One of those has already been clinched by North Carolina, leaving six other teams in a battle for the last three places. URFC only has three matches left against teams ahead of them in the race, so every game takes on additional importance as they need to take points off the ones they are chasing, and be sure they get full points from the teams they need to stay ahead of.
This team needs to figure out who it is, and how it wants to play games in a hurry. Though injury, changes, and international duty all have their effects on the lineup, there’s a core identity we’ve seen at times that performs at a high level, good enough to match any team in the league. Becoming that team on a consistent basis is the key to having success moving forward.