Tonight, Utah Royals FC is in New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC. This is a must-win game for the Royals if they wish to keep their playoff hopes alive. What will we see from each of the teams, and how can the Royals find a way to win? Let’s go over a few points!
Utah Royals FC
The Royals have shown that they know how to win against Sky Blue, as they have taken all six available points from games between the two sides so far. Most recently, a 3-1 win for the Royals at Rio Tinto, which saw Christen Press get her first goal in Royal gold and Katie Stengel score two more to seal the 3 points. I expect that Laura Harvey will implement a similar game plan as the ones they used before, in hopes that it proves effective once again.
The key for the Royals in this match is going to be controlling possession and then using that possession to patiently create scoring opportunities. Off the ball movement is key to this game plan, so I would hope to see the URFC players actively moving around the pitch when they don’t have the ball to try to pull and bend the Sky Blue defense out of shape, before springing the attack and getting a look at goal.
Defensively, it will be important to stay balanced and be prepared to defend against the counterattack. Sky Blue will likely concede the majority of possession and look to attack quickly on the counter. Having the defense and midfield be constantly aware of their shape and balance will help them to be in good position to defend against the counter when the ball turns over.
Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue come into this game with an eye on next season, as well as hoping to play the spoiler role for URFC’s playoff hopes. Also, they will be playing for pride, hoping to earn their first win of the 2018 season to prevent them from going winless in the entire campaign. They currently have just 4 points on the season, thanks to an 0-14-4 overall record.
Sky Blue’s tactical plan for this game will likely be to sit back and absorb pressure, and then look to break out on the counter. One thing to note about Sky Blue is that most of their scoring has been done by committee this season, with no player on the team scoring more than 3 goals. It will be important for the Royals to stay balanced and focus on their own shape rather than focus on one specific player.
Injury Update (via NWSLSoccer.com)
Sky Blue FC
OUT: Shea Groom (concussion protocol), Erica Skroski (excused absence), Rebekah Stott (lower back strain)
QUESTIONABLE: Mandy Freeman (right hamstring strain), Christina Gibbons (right hamstring strain)
Utah Royals FC
OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – SEI), Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear – SEI), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – SEI)
QUESTIONABLE: Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain)
DF: Bowen, Corsie, Sauerbrunn, Moros
MF: Matheson, Scott, Jonsdottir, Gorry
FW: Rodriguez, Press
Royals’ keys to the match
- Control possession with patience and wait for the attack to open. If the Royals can be patient and move off the ball well, they will be able to create scoring opportunities for themselves.
- Be aware of defensive balance and shape. Sky Blue FC will likely concede the majority of possession and look to strike back on the counter. Making sure balance and shape are always correct is another form of patience that the Royals will need to have if they hope to come out with a win and keep their playoff hopes alive.