Hey! This is a new beat we’ll be doing here at RSL Soapbox. Instead of a player of the match every game for the Utah Royals FC, we’ll be weighing the performances of players across the span of three or four games. Up obviously indicates that a player’s performance has been positive across that timeframe. Similarly, down indicates that a player’s performance has dropped, or that they are currently playing below their capability. Let’s take a gander at the first edition of this beat.
The last three games have seen the Royals pick up six out of a possible nine points after beating Houston and Washington, and falling a goal short on Saturday to a strong Seattle team.
UP: Nicole Barnhart
While starting the season predicted by many to be the outright starter, the league’s all-time record holder in shutouts and goalkeeper appearances found herself as a buck up to young-gun Abby Smith. After going down with a concussion, Barnie has stepped in and played 298 minutes, earning two clean sheets out of three games in addition to eight saves. After Abby Smith returned to the starting lineup in Saturday’s loss to the Seattle Reign, it will be interesting to see who can lock down the starting position for the last few games of the season.
UP: Katie Stengel
Sten-GOAL has been nothing short of fantastic. It’s truly surprising that on a team with Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez on it, neither one of those women are the leading scorers. Katie Stengel leads the Royals in goals with five. Two of those have come in the last three games, both being game winners against the Spirit and Dash respectively.
UP: Lo’eau Labonta
After finding herself riding the bench for large portions of the season, Lo’eau Labonta has displaced Australian international Katrina Gorry at the number ten position playing all 90 minutes in the last three games. While the California native hasn’t put up the greatest numbers on the stat sheet, she has had continuous solid performances in the attacking midfield.
UP: Taylor Lytle
Taylor Lytle went from being a player who looked to potentially be next on the chopping block after the release of Maegan Kelly and Alexa Newfield into a reliable winger for Laura Harvey. Having played just 299 minutes this year, often times not even making the bench in the early phases of the season, the New Mexico native has 184 of those 299 minutes in the last four games alone.
DOWN: Katrina Gorry
Katrina Gorry hasn’t exactly tanked by any means. She had some excellent performances with the Westfield Matildas in the recent 2018 Tournament of Nations. But somehow, someway, Lo’eau Labonta has shown Laura Harvey in training that there is something about her which warrants her as preference over Gorry. When Gorry has played, she has been an early sub. Healthy competition is good, so look for these two to continue to battle for the starting spot at CAM.
DOWN: Christen Press
Christen Press is an incredible player, but if we are being frank, she hasn’t been the catalyst which would change the Royals season that many of us thought that she would be. While she has managed to score a goal within the last three games, she has blown multiple scoring opportunities and has overlooked wide open teammates in the final third in favor of taking on a defender one-on-one. Perhaps it is that we, as a fanbase, have put too much pressure and consequently high expectations on the Palos Verdes native. Regardless, based upon the latest press conference it is evident that Christen knows that she is playing below her own personal expectations. Look for her to go on a tear in these final three must-win games.