The press towards a first-ever playoff appearance for Utah Royals FC continued on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium as the team finished off a 1-0 win over Washington Spirit. Here’s what we learned from the win.
It’s going to be a fight
Though you can’t take anything for granted in this league, Laura Harvey was right to mention that she felt like the team should have won by more than a single goal. The chances were there, but the execution was a little slow in places. It took a few substitutions and a moment of brilliance, followed by some solid defending, to secure the win against a Spirit team that had a strong lineup but was also carrying the burden of their losing streak. The result ended up being what we all wanted, but it was harder than it needed to be, which underscores how difficult things will be going forward.
The juggling act in the starting lineup continued with Harvey trying an interesting experiment of placing Christen Press in the midfield to start the match along with Lo’eau Labonta and Gunny Jónsdóttir. Press would shift up to the forward line, with Katie Stengel dropping back and becoming much less effective as a midfielder. It wasn’t until Diana Matheson and Taylor Lytle came on, and everyone moved back to their best places in the field, that the Royals started to look truly dangerous and ultimately scored. Though a game like this one was probably best to weather such a change, it makes clear how important it is to get the lineup right from the start of the game.
On their way
Two wins so far this week are a good sign for the Royals chances of making the playoffs. Though still in sixth place for now, they are only one point out of fourth, and five points from this weekend’s opponent Seattle in second. That makes the coming match even more crucial as it represents a six point swing towards a chance to play in the postseason.