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Hand Ball Derby: Utah Royals FC @ Orlando Pride preview

Utah Royals FC return to Orlando City Stadium for the first time since March 2018.

Cindy Lara | RSL Soapbox

Here we go. With week one in the books, a home opener with a win in front of 18,015 in attendance, Utah Royals FC look to week two of NWSL play. If you’re Becky Sauerbrunn, you’ve been waiting for this one. Heck, we all kinda have been. Actually, we really have been waiting to watch Utah play Orlando. Remember this?

Hmm. Poor Becky’s face.

BUT that was 2018. The past can’t be changed. This is 2019, and Utah Royals FC travel to Orlando for the first time since that infamous hand ball to take on Alex Morgan, Marta, and company, and word on the street is that Orlando is off to a rough season. And that’s good news for Utah Royals who have yet to beat Orlando. In three games against the Pride, Utah holds a 0-1-2 record.

Scouting Orlando

Sure Orlando has major international superstars. Think Alex Morgan, Marta, Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy, Ashlyn Harris. But they also have a new head coach, Marc Skinner, who is trying to employ his style of play. And so far, it’s not going so well. In three games, Orlando has lost two and drawn one, with one goal to count. Defensively, Ashlyn Harris and the D have allowed 8 goals. And each week, Harris rips her team with criticism, which doesn’t help morale.

But that’s why they play the game, and Orlando, if they get it together, especially in the midfield, can come out of this one with the win. Remember that Morgan and Marta can score goals at any moment. But so far, Portland, North Carolina, and Reign FC have held Orlando to just two shots on goal, combined.

Orlando Injury Report

OUT: Toni Pressley (left hamstring strain)

Scouting Utah Royals FC

Utah Royals come to Orlando with some confidence. Last week, Verónica Boquete made her Utah debut and showed why she was the missing link in Utah’s attack. Christen Press impressed (bum bum psh!); Michelle Maemone, a rookie, stepped up; Lo LaBonta recorded the first goal of the season for Utah; Desiree Scott owned the defensive midfield; Mandy Laddish returned for the first time in two seasons; and Nicole Barnhart made two major saves.

With a season under their belt, and some changes in the lineup, Utah already looks better than their 2018 self. Head coach Laura Harvey is not content, though. She knows there’s room for improvement, like better defending, pressing, and converting shots and chance into goals, and this will be the game that Harvey can focus on those improvements.

Utah Injury Report

OUT: Brittany Ratcliffe (SEI, left knee); Sydney Miramontez (right foot); Diana Matheson (right foot); Becca Moros (left knee); Maddie Nolf (hip); Taylor Lytle (left foot)


Match details

When: Saturday, April 27, 2019 | 5:30 PM MT

Where: Orlando City Stadium | Orlando, FL

Weather: Sunny, 79 degrees

TV: KMYU

Live Stream: KSL, Yahoo Sports app

Referee: Jon Freemon