As the song goes, “Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again,” and oh boy was there a lot of darkness in this here game of soccer.
There is no sugar coating it. Utah Royals FC played like hot, stinking, sweaty garbage. The forwards didn’t look threatening; the midfield was clogged and disjoined; the backline resembled Swiss cheese, and Barnhart looked mortal for really the first time this year.
So on that happy note, let’s begin, shall we?
The problem of the disappearing players
I have written about what an important player Amy Rodriguez is for Utah. And she is. But often this year, she had been invisible for minutes, long painful minutes, at a time.
Rodriguez has, all the time, speed and drive to make a meal out of some of the best backlines in the league. And right now, none of the backlines are at their best. She has to find the same page book that Verónica Boquete has thoughtfully written out for this team’s success, and she needs to find it fast.
Then there’s Katie Stengel, who needs to, at least try, to find the same chapter of the same book. While she scored the most goals for Utah in 2018, her 2019 campaign has been a story of invisibility.
With Press gone, both of these players need to find themselves and have a game proving they still can make some noise.
The right time for a break
It’s not usually a great sign when I’m watching a game and start thinking about how good the timing of a 14-day break is for the team. And, oh wow, was it not a good sign this time.
Utah is bagged up. They are tied. And this two-week World Cup break could not come at a better time for them, and the match afterward could not be a better match up. After two weeks off, they will face Sky Blue FC in Utah. The team gets rest, and then the extra benefit of not having to travel.
But like I said, when this is what I’m thinking about during a game, it’s not a good thing, not the six shots on frame that didn’t look all that bothersome, or the fact Utah managed a mere 37.1% possession over 90 minutes of soccer. And I’m really glad that I didn’t think about the fact Utah faced two shots on goal, and Washington finished the night with two goals.
The players who are not there
Brittany Ratcliffe and Taylor Lytle have season ending injuries, so does Diana Matheson. Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Desiree Scott, Rachel Corsie, and Katie Bowen are all away wearing their nations colors as the Women’s World Cup prepares to kick off.
Nine players that, in a non-World Cup (and a slightly more forgiving injury related) year would be either in the starting eleven or a likely sub into the match. That is going to be a body blow to any team. And, oh, wow, oh wow was it a body blow to Utah on Saturday. Lo’eau LaBonta being out because of a Disciplinary Committee decision for misconduct didn’t help the state of the team either.
And you know what? I hope each of the players that weren’t in the starting eleven, but usually would be, watched that game. I hope they felt terrible seeing what the team is playing like right now. Not because the players out there aren’t talented, but because those away for the World Cup might be a little bit (or in some cases a lot, let’s be fair) more talented. I hope while they are putting on a show for us all at the World Cup this eats at them just a little bit. I hope they don’t forget Utah as they hear their national anthem play. And when they are all finally back, when planes land and the confetti (if there is any this time around) is done falling, I hope they put on their uniforms and go out on the pitch and let out an ear-shattering, bone-shaking roar.
The Most Noble Order of the Lioness
The Most Noble Order of the Lioness is taking the week off. This game felt unworthy of a nomination to the Order. While I could shift through the ashes to find a slight charred form among the rubble, that is not what this most noble institution is for.
Please join us Saturday the 15th as the Utah Royals FC take on Sky Blue FC. The last time the two squared off they drew, 2-2.