In the last week, Utah Royals FC have played two games and come out with six much-needed points. Saturday, they play at the RioT again against Seattle Reign FC in the first game of a doubleheader with RSL. Getting three points against the Reign would put the Royals firmly back in the playoff race, something they have been working toward all season. What will it take for the Royals to come out victorious? And what will we see from Seattle as they try to hold off URFC’s late season charge? Let’s take a look!
Utah Royals FC
URFC made it through a tough midweek game and came out with a win against the Washington Spirit. Now, on just three days of rest, they take the field again against a rested Seattle Reign team looking for an important three points in the playoff race.
The Royals have struggled against the Reign so far this season, earning a draw at home before losing to them on the road in Seattle. The struggle for URFC will be to figure out how they can break the Reign down and score. An added struggle will be dealing with tired legs and squad rotation due to the Wednesday game, while the Reign did not have a midweek game.
I would not at all be surprised to see further squad rotation in this game due to the three games in eight days. Of course, we already saw some squad rotation on Wednesday, so we should see a couple of regular starters such as Katrina Gorry and Becky Sauerbrunn back on the pitch for this matchup.
One thing the Royals did well in their last game was get the attack going a little better. They were able to get 18 shots in the game against Washington, including eight shots on target. This is an improvement over what we have seen much of the season, and gives the Royals a bit of hope going forward. If they can continue to build the attack and combine together as a team, they should be able to continue to create good scoring opportunities. We have seen that over the past week, and I believe that we will continue to see it as well.
A big part of the Royals attacking performances over the past week has been the play of Katie Stengel. She has scored two of the Royals’ three goals this week, and she also leads the team in scoring with five goals on the season. Talking with a fellow Soapbox writer a few weeks ago, I was asked what my thoughts were regarding Stengel. My reply was that her style of play reminds me of how Alvaro Saborio used to play for RSL. She might not be the fastest or most skilled player on the team, but she happens to show up in the right place at the right time more often than not. I would not at all be surprised to see her continue to have a larger role going forward throughout the remainder of the season.
Seattle Reign FC
Seattle come into this game currently sitting on 33 points from 19 games thanks to a 9-4-6 overall record. Thus far this season, they have scored 22 goals, while allowing a league low 15 goals.
The Reign will be looking to solidify their playoff participation with a win in this game. If they did win, they would have a 4-6 point buffer between themselves and other teams aiming to make the playoffs, which they would have to feel pretty good about.
Tactically, Seattle line up in a 4-3-3 formation, with their attack centered around longtime USWNT star Megan Rapinoe. She leads the team in both goals and assists, with seven and five respectively, and is active all over the pitch all throughout the game. Keeping tabs on her is important in the Royals’ game plan if they hope to come out victorious.
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)
QUESTIONABLE: Desiree Scott (right quad strain), Elise Thorsnes (left hamstring strain)
Seattle Reign FC
OUT: Elizabeth Addo (right knee strain), Yael Averbuch (illness – SEI), Stephanie Catley (excused absence), Kiersten Dallstream (right knee sprain – SEI), Rumi Utsugi (left calf strain), Beverly Yanez (right foot fracture)
DF: Bowen, Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Moros
MF: Jonsdottir, Gorry
MF: Matheson, Lytle, Press
Royals’ keys to the match
- Combine and create. URFC has quality players. As long as they continue to create decent scoring opportunities, the quality will show through, and the balls will hit the back of the net. Finding a way to get their best players in their best positions on the field is key.
- Track Rapinoe. Megan Rapinoe is the heart and soul of the Seattle Reign. If she can be isolated and kept under control, it significantly dampers the Seattle offense. DM’s and fullbacks will need to be especially aware of her location and the runs she is making.