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Reign FC vs. Utah Royals — three questions with Sounders At Heart

Our friends at Sounders At Heart provide some insight ahead of this massive game

Lucas Muller | RSL Soapbox

The stakes could not be any higher for this game, and the winner is likely to end up with a playoff place. Utah Royals FC travel to Tacoma, Washington to face Reign FC. We reached out to our friends over at Sounders At Heart and Susie Rantz was kind enough to provide some excellent insight to our questions.

Utah Royals and Reign FC are level on points and both are fighting for that 4th and final playoff spot. The last time these two teams met, the Royals were able to upset the Reign at home. How likely does that fear feel for Reign fans and what will be different since the last time these two teams met?

I’d say fans are cautiously optimistic and quite nervous at the same time. While she didn’t get on the scoresheet last match, Christen Press was a menace – it felt like the Reign’s only strategy was to tug her jersey to stop the attack. And they still gave up 3 goals. At the same time, Vlatko Andonovski knows how to prepare his team to make tactical adjustments. Most matches between him and Laura Harvey are tight and calculated. That feels like the expectation heading into Wednesday, even if the last scoreline between the two sides contradicts this.

The other difference is that the club has a number of players healthy this time around, with the most notable being Megan Rapinoe. Having her available changes how teams defend the Reign. While she’s still not 100% in terms of match fitness and game time, just having her unpredictable nature on the field is going to make it more difficult for the Royals.

The Reign were able to match Washington Spirit fairly closely last Saturday, with both of their goals coming shortly after each of the Spirit’s two goals in the 2-2 draw. What went right in the game and what went wrong? At this point in the season, is a road point a good result or did that feel like points dropped?

The Reign press – focused on winning the ball back quickly and high up the field – was tenacious for the first 30 minutes of the match, causing a typically organized Spirit defense to look all out of sorts. The pressure resulted in a Reign shot that went off the crossbar in the 4th minute, in addition to several other early chances. Unfortunately, those chances didn’t result in a goal, and the Reign let the Spirit get on the scoresheet first – giving away a goal against the run of play.

In the second half, when the game opened up more, it suited a Spirit side that featured more speed. Still, the fact that the team battled back twice to equalize is a good sign for Reign fans. Until the last two matches, the club hadn’t scored two goals in a game since June 28. More goal production is a great sign.

And while three points would have been preferred, the draw put them in a good position for the playoffs. I mean, could the stakes be any higher for both Utah and the Reign heading into Wednesday’s match?!

Given how close in the standings Utah and the Reign are, how do you feel about the next three games after Wednesday match? Do those final games given the Reign a chance to make the playoffs and do you think they’ll have a post season?

In 2016 and 2017, when the Reign narrowly missed the playoffs, this time of the year was frustrating. The Reign had to rely on other matches going their way, in addition to earning wins along the way. What is encouraging this time around is that the team controls its own destiny. Other matches don’t matter. Just these final four. In addition to facing Sky Blue and Orlando, the Reign go up against Utah this Wednesday (obviously) and Portland later in September – two teams above them in the standings. A win against either, or both, would help push the Reign up the ladder. It’s still going to be tough, but I think fans believe that if the team could overcome SO many injuries and hardships this year – and still be in this position mid-September – they’ve got the grit and resiliency to make it all the way.

You can read our responses to Susie’s questions at Sounder At Heart.