Well, the curse that held Utah to a single goal a game has been broken. All it took was six weeks of soccer, a sub in the 79 minute and an Orlando team who had lost nine starters to the World Cup.
As the official Chief Herald here at RSL Soapbox for Utah Royals FC, I present to you each week my thoughts on the team. And, oh boy, is this week full of thoughts. And, as usual, I will also be presenting who is up for The Most Noble Order of the Lioness as the best player of the week.
Utah gave us a few big topics to talk about this week.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Two goals are possible
I was sure of two things coming into this match. The first was Utah had the better odds of winning, and the second was they needed to win by more than one goal.
While Utah did both of these things, I do worry they only managed four shots on frame out of 16 total shots. This was a chance for them to go out and do to Orlando what North Carolina when Orlando lost 5-0. It could have been a statement game. And maybe it will be enough if this breaks the dam open, and they start scoring more often and are able to even come back from being a goal down and manage to win.
I do think we should celebrate Makenzy Doniak getting her first goal back after coming back from an ACL injury. That is a huge moment of a win for her, and if she can get a few more, she will be an important player for Utah overall.
Amy Rodriguez is the key
Utah lives, and sometimes dies, by the way that Amy Rodriguez plays. She has scored four goals in the last four games for Utah and netted seven goals in her last nine games, going back to 2018.
Four goals with seven shots on goal and 18 total shots this season is something I’d bet Laura Harvey and company would be happy to bank on for the rest of the year. While we still haven’t seen a multi-goal game from her, Rodriguez is always going to be a player that teams have to plan for and who they have to defend aggressively. That may lead to her scoring a bit less, but it should open spots on for others to get shots and hopefully goals from those shots.
Amy Rodriguez is a player somehow underrated by fans while still managing to be one of the most deadly strikes in the NWSL’s history. She’s not a bad player to have as a key attacking piece.
Alright, it’s that time. We have to talk about Lo’eau LaBonta and the foul that wasn’t called.
According to soccer rules, a player gets a red card if they are “guilty of violent conduct.” I don’t think it matters, not in a real sense, if Carson Pickett and LaBonta were engaged in a battle for the ball in the seconds leading up to this. From all the video we have seen, and you can find it on Twitter if you haven’t, LaBonta kicks Pickett after the ball was away.
It was a red card. It should have been a red card. And we should expect things like this to be a red card. But we don’t. Because the NWSL has warped our sense of what is a foul and what isn’t, what is a yellow card and what isn’t, and what is a red card and what isn’t. Because of that, fans of teams are getting more and more hyped up when something like this happens.
If the refs would call more fouls when there are fouls, if they would issue more cards and force the players to stop giving in to bad habits and borderline dirty tactics, the league and the players in that league would be better for it.
The Most Noble Order of the Lioness
Each week I have to decide who I think was the best player of the week in order to give this award. Some weeks it’s easy, and some weeks I am a bit more perplexed.
A quick run back of the rules for anyone who might need it. After two nominations the player is officially granted the status as a Companion in the Order. Anyone winning six over the course of the season will become a Commander of the Order.
This week the honor of nomination goes to Nicole Barnhart.
It is hard to be a goalkeeper in the NWSL. It is harder still to be a goalkeeper in the NWSL when you have 3/4 of your backline traded and are trying to keep everything together. Barnhart has been playing wonderfully all year, and this game was no exception. Utah has allowed the fewest goals this season thanks in large part to her being in goal. Without her shot stopping and organizing prowess this game against Orlando, I’m not sure Utah comes out on top.
That leaves Vero Boquete as the sole Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Lioness with Desiree Scott, Christen Press, Rachel Corsie and now Nicole Barnhart needing one more nomination to officially join the order.
Please join us next Saturday as Utah Royals FC take on Washington Spirit in a battle of the one and two seeds. The last time the two squared off Utah won 1-0.