After two home games in which Utah Royals FC showed a new and improved attack and earned 4 points, they now head back out on the road to take on the Portland ThornsFC again. Will the new attack continue to flourish and bring more wins along with it, or will the Thorns be able to slow down what has been a prolific attack? Let’s take a look at a few points and go over what we might expect to see in tonight’s game.
Utah Royals FC
In the two games since Christen Press joined the team, we have seen a huge boost in our offensive play. In 180 minutes of play, she already has 11 shots, 5 shots on target, 1 goal and 1 assist to her name. In addition, Press has provided the ability to stretch the defense and draw in defenders, which has allowed for a lot more free space for her fellow attackers. Her impact on this team and its attacking ability cannot be understated.
Another big impact on the Royals offensive play has been the switch to the 4-4-2 formation. It has provided the team with the ability to have creativity all throughout the midfield, and the ability to create scoring opportunities in all areas of the pitch.
As has been mentioned many times previously, the Royals defense also continues to be dominant, still leading the league in fewest goals conceded with 11. Sam Johnson stepped into the central defense alongside Becky Sauerbrunn against Sky Blue last weekend and showed that she could quickly integrate with her teammates as well.
In this game against Portland, I would expect the Royals to come out ready to play and ready to take the game to the Thorns. Look for a solid, compact shape while URFC is defending, and then watch as they look for opportunities to spring the quick counter-attack with numbers when the ball turns over in the midfield due to having more players in the midfield.
Through 15 games of the 2018 season, the Thorns have posted a 5-5-5 overall record, good for 20 points and are currently sixth in the league, just one point behind URFC. One surprising thing to note is that, thus far in 2018, the Thorns have not been that good at home, posting only 2 wins in 7 tries to go along with 3 losses and 2 draws. Of course, one of those wins at home was against the Royals in their last match-up, so maybe take those numbers with a little grain of salt.
Portland continues to be led by their captain, Canadian International Christine Sinclair, who has 7 goals and 5 assists thus far in the 2018 campaign. Hot on her heels for the team goal-scoring lead is USWNT international Lindsey Horan, who has added 6 goals and 1 assist to the team. Both players are ones to keep a close eye on throughout the entire game. If URFC can limit those two players, then they will effectively shut down the majority of the Thorns offense.
Injury Update (via NWSLSoccer.com)
OUT: Andressinha (right ankle sprain), Caitlin Foord (right lis franc repair), Meg Morris (left hip pain – SEI), Katherine Reynolds (excused absence)
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)
DF: Bowen, Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Moros
MF: Gorry, Scott, Jonsdottir, Matheson
ST: Rodriguez, Press
Royals’ keys to the match
- Contain Sinclair and Horan. Keeping those two players locked down and under control the entire match to severely hamper the Thorns offense.
- Break with numbers when the ball turns over. If the Royals can get into transition quickly, the movement of Press and Rodriguez off the ball up top will pull the Thorns defense out of shape. If the midfielders can get up the field and make good runs, there should be plenty of space for them to create all kinds of havoc.