Here we go. If the last four games were treated as pre-season, it’s about to get very real now. It’s game five for Utah Royals FC in the NWSL Challenge Cup as they enter the knockout stage. Their opponent: the Houston Dash, the very same team they opened the tournament against, the one that ended in a 3-3 draw.
The club will look to bounce from back-to-back losses against OL Reign and the Chicago Red Starts after performing well in their first two games: a draw after coming back from a 3-1 goal deficit to earn a point versus the Houston Dash and a 1-0 win versus Sky Blue FC.
But everything that happened in those 4 games is in the past. What matters now is the game ahead. It’s win and play the NC Courage (likely) or go home and wait for 2021.
Utah Royals FC (1-2-1)
vs. Houston Dash (1-2-1)
When: Friday, July 17 | 8:00 PM MT
Where: Zions Bank Stadium | Herriman, UT
Live Stream: CBS All-Access
Radio: ESPN 700
Utah vs. Houston 2020 meetings: 1
- June 30, 2020 - Zions Bank Stadium
URFC 3; Houston 3
All-Time Series Record: 3-2-2
Houston Head Coach: James Clarkson
Dash Players to Watch: Rachel Daly, Shea Groom
Utah: The time to shine is now
When the tournament first started, I wrote:
It’s unfair to count this team out, especially when we have not seen their style of play under Harrington. This game versus the Dash will answer many of our questions: formation, starting line up, strategy, etc. At least, it will give us a glimmer of hope or cast despair.
For the first two games, we saw a glimmer of hope. Utah silenced the critics, remaining unbeaten, and with their 3-5-2 formation, focusing on getting numbers up the field in the attack, and the midfield maintaining possession, the team had been successful to score goals.
But it seems like the ghosts of the past returned, and all of a sudden, Utah looked like the team of old: unable to finish chances, even though there were plenty of opportunities to take the lead, and looking flat.
Head coach Craig Harrington has used the past four games to experiment, learn more about his players, and test out a new formation, and though it’s been a learning opportunity, the game against the Dash is the time to get serious now, to start the best XI (like get Tziarra King in there!) and finish their chances.
We know Utah’s offense has probably created more chances than previous seasons, but the goal is to be clinical enough to put those balls in the back of the net, and Harrington knows how important it is:
“It’s not for lack of chances, I think we’ve all seen that and we will continue to do that. I believe after three games we had the most shots of any team, and I believe we also had the most shots on target. If we can do that at some point average, we will get the ball in the back of the net more than the other team. We’ll keep plugging away and playing our trade, bring on the quarterfinals.”
If Utah can get a couple goals and watch out for Houston’s Rachel Daly, they can look forward to the semi-finals.
Utah Royals FC Injury Report
OUT: Desiree Scott (Personal)