Utah Royals FC head back to where it all started: Orlando City Stadium. It’s the site of the Royals’ first professional game. It was the game that gave us the team’s first goal (Jónsdóttir) and the worst call in team history, the penalty for a handball that was in no way a handball. This will be the fourth game for the Pride, where as this will only be Utah’s second game. We reached out to Michael Citro, the Managing Editor of The Mane Land to get some insight ahead of this match.
Orlando Pride had a decent result in Tacoma with a 1-1 draw against Reign FC, but fell 5-0 to North Carolina Courage just a few days prior. Will the result from Sunday boost some of the team’s confidence, or will there be a hang over from a single point in three games?
Pride fans certainly hope so. Orlando has had a dreadful start to the Marc Skinner era and, although growing pains are expected and the competition level has been quite high to start the year, if the Pride are going to have any success this season, they can’t afford to fall any further off the pace. The Portland game wasn’t great and the first half against the Courage was a good response but the team folded spectacularly in the second half of that game with what should be correctable mistakes. The Reign game honestly could have gone either way but it showed good character for Orlando to rebound after the bad loss in North Carolina, especially playing a third game in eight days.
The Pride have already played three games and hosting Utah Royals will be their forth, but only Utah’s second. How will those extra minutes help the team to gel and how will they deal with tired legs?
The Pride have needed every minute as they try to turn Skinner’s system from something they’re thinking about to something that comes naturally and instinctively. Orlando isn’t there yet but having three matches under their belt should theoretically have moved the Pride closer to their goal of implementing Skinner’s system the way he envisions. Having five days off between two matches will probably feel like two weeks after their three-in-eight-days stretch, so I think Orlando will be OK in terms of fatigue.
Aside from players like Harris, Morgan, Marta, Krieger, etc. who will Utah need to watch out for? Which players have impressed you most this season?
I would ordinarily say Rachel Hill or Camila could have an impact but honestly no one has impressed yet in 2019. The attack hasn’t had much teeth (two shots on goal combined over the last two games and one goal on the year...and that one came off a set piece), the defense has struggled to clear the area, set piece defending has been highly suspect, and the midfield hasn’t controlled any of the three matches for more than a few minutes. I don’t think we know who is going to be dangerous in this system until the team starts to grasp it much better.
Bonus question: Who are the Pride losing during the World Cup and how will they weather that time?
The Pride will be losing a huge chunk of the roster: Alex Morgan (U.S.), Ashlyn Harris (U.S.), Marta (Brazil), Alanna Kennedy (Australia), and Emily van Egmond (Australia) will all be gone for sure, and there’s a good chance that Chioma Ubogagu (England), Camila (Brazil), and even Ali Krieger (U.S.) could all get the call as well. Skinner has added some draft picks, a couple of roster players and some supplemental players but it’s unclear if they have the quality to make an impact. That said, we’re expecting reinforcements to be added following the European season due to having international slots to spend. Skinner will hope any new additions can step in and help right away, and perhaps a couple players from his former club, Birmingham City, will be the targets.
You can read our responses to The Mane Land’s questions at www.themaneland.com.