Utah Royals FC started off the season extremely strong picking up nine out of a possible nine points. But the last few weeks, the team has not looked nearly as good, picking up only four out of a possible twelve points. Let’s take a gander at some of the player performances against Houston (H), North Carolina (A), Orlando (H), and Washington (A)
UP: Amy Rodriguez
On the Utah Royals FC Show a few weeks back, we said that if the Royals are going to keep their spot at the upper half of the table during the World Cup break, Amy Rodriguez was going to have to play well.
Amy Rodriguez has not played well.
She has been phenomenal.
Maybe it’s being a full season removed from the ACL injury. Maybe it’s extra juice and inspiration for no longer being in the national team picture. Maybe it’s tactical difference with Christen Press being out. Whatever it is, Amy Rodriguez is playing some of the best soccer that she has ever played. She is on the NWSL Team of the Month for May, and she absolutely deserves by banging in goals in four of the last five games. Even in a game where she is not finding the back of the net, her networking ability with Vero Boquete shines bright and was able to test Aubrey Bledsoe by putting all four shots on target.
Where every little touch counts. pic.twitter.com/EyDWVrRKWy— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) May 19, 2019
UP: Vero Boquete
Ever watched someone play football and been mesmerized by what they can do with a ball at their feet? I probably don’t have to write anything more for this section, huh?
To put it bluntly, Vero kept this team afloat in an otherwise deflating performance against the Washington Spirit. She has been fantastic from the beginning of the season, and after having more time to acclimate to the system, the last slate of games have really proven why as she was picked for the NWSL Team of the Month and picked up two consecutive Women of the Match awards.
She hasn’t really been put in positions to finish chances herself, but she is definitely creating plenty of them, either on the breakaway or delivering an assist to be finished by Amy Rodriguez. She has been everything the midfield missed from last year, proving that she is a true legend of the game, one of the greatest Spanish players ever, if not the greatest, and will be missed sorely by her federation as she continues to be a champion of equality not only in Spain, but in the world.
UP: Mallory Weber
I knew one or two things about Mallory Weber before Laura Harvey brought her in. Okay, maybe just one thing, I knew she played for the Portland Thorns, and that was it. After digging in on my research, I still wasn’t all that impressed, and figured, okay, it’s an extra body during the World Cup. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. She was made for the Harvey system and fits like a glove. She’s not a star, and I don’t think she will ever be a star, but she has risen up my ranks, and I would be shocked if she didn’t bag a goal this year. At the very least, she will add plenty of complications and considerations to lineup decisions between her Makenzy Doniak, Erika Tymrak, Alex Kimball, and Raisa Strom-Okimoto.
UP: Gaby Vincent
Like Michelle Maemone, Gaby Vincent is one of those young players that got their chance and ran with it. Rookie mistakes are there, just as exceeding expectations are. Different than Maemone, however, Gaby’s chance didn’t start by being drafted; it started by graduating from Louisville, going to a tryout and working her way in. She’s played 225 minutes across three games, two of which were starts, has won five interceptions, blocked three shots, and cleared the ball twelve times.
Perhaps most impressive are her passing numbers landing the ball to her teammates 87% overall and hitting near a team high 68% with the long ball. Moreover, unlike most of her teammates, she is moving the ball directly forward 46% of the time instead of backwards or to the left or right.
DOWN: Meghan Cox
The former Portland Thorns and Houston Dash player appeared to be a part of Laura Harvey’s World Cup plans after two substitution appearances, - although only eight minutes total - and brought in to compete for a centerback spot which is not very deep. However, since those two appearances she has been a complete non-factor with Gaby Vincent winning the spot. It will be interesting to see if she can work her way in.
DOWN: Katie Stengel
This one pains me. This one pains me a lot because I am a big Katie Stengel fan, but to get to the point, she has not been good, and she has not been a threat. Yes, she has ‘sorta’ drawn defenders off of Amy Rodriguez, but for there have been substantial periods in each of the last several games where it feels that she has disappeared completely. She’s in a slump, and with the World Cup, the timing is perfect for her to get out of it. Will she? I dunno. I hope so, but I would be very, very intrigued at the idea of moving back to a 4-3-3 with some combination of Boquete, Rodriguez, and either Labonta/Stengel/Weber with Stengel dropping back to play a hold up role in the 10 spot.
On paper, it hasn’t been as bad as the eye test, but it still feels like she has been a non-factor. In the game against North Carolina, she wasn’t able to get a single shot, but she did commit two fouls in going a full 90. The next week, she was able to get four shots, but only put one on target. The most recent game against Washington, she recorded two shots on target, but overall, things do not feel like they are near threatening enough.
DOWN: Diana Matheson/Taylor Lytle
Like last time around, this has nothing to do with performance, and everything to do with being injured. Being injured itself is a bummer, being a talented rotation player who can step up and get minutes during the World Cup is a bigger bummer, and for Diana Matheson, being 35 and missing what is probably her last shot at a World Cup roster due to injury, is an even bigger bummer.
I don’t want to go on about how down I am about Diana missing the World Cup for another three paragraphs - I could, I won’t, - but know that this is an extreme bummer. She is set to undergo foot surgery in the near future if she hasn’t already, so don’t expect her to be back anytime soon. Hopefully this is an injury that she will ultimately be able to come back from, father time may be running against her, but if there’s anything that the Canadian legend is, it’s that she’s a fighter.
Taylor Lytle is also someone who with World Cup absences was perfectly placed to fight for a starting role. She like Diana Matheson and Brittany Ratcliffe will be pressed to fight for a spot with the addition of Mallory Weber, but she’s an immense talent, fabulous teammate, and I expect to see her around.
DOWN: Where in the World is
Carmen San Diego Sydney Miramontez?
I dunno. Do you know? She’s been off the injury list for weeks now, and she’s been involved in next to none of the club’s social content. She was on the bench for the game against the Spirit. Maybe she’s healthy, but not healthy enough to make an 18 outside of the game against Washington? I don’t know, but with the entirety of last year’s starting defensive line absent, this is a spot that she should not be losing to a group of rookies given that she expanded her versatility slotting into centerback for multiple W-League games.