It may not have been the win we hoped for, but a positive result for Utah Royals FC against North Carolina Courage on Friday night ended the losing streak at three games and carried some positives with it. Here’s what we learned from the 0-0 draw.
Facing the best
Three matches against the best in the league, and the Royals can claim the best set of results when facing the Courage this season. A win and two draws earns URFC 5 points, something no other team in the NWSL can match and also gives the Royals two shutouts against the highest scoring team. It’s a set of results the whole team can be proud of, and draw inspiration for the final 6 games to know they can compete with anyone.
With a total of nine American players gone between the two teams to participate in the Tournament of Nations, we missed an opportunity for a meeting of full-powered squads. Despite that, both teams played well and provided several moments where it looked like one would get a goal. For the Royals side, it seemed that the attack missed the influence of Christen Press and the dangerous chances she can create. Though Lytle, Stengel, and Matheson didn’t have a bad game, there was more to be had if the team had tried for it.
Playing to draw
That said, it looked like the Royals were a team playing not to lose, rather than one trying to win. A home match against a team you know you can beat should have been a chance to make a six point swing in the standings, but the Royals spent a lot of time passing in their defensive third and backing away from chances to move upfield. The decision making was also too slow to effectively beat the pressure the Courage put on the ball, leading to URFC generating just 5 shots and only one on goal. For a team that has one of the highest passing rates in the league, the lack of ability to convert that into offensive threats is concerning and needs to be resolved if the team is going to make the playoffs.