Utah Royals FC now have managed to go four games against the North Carolina Courage without walking away empty-handed, something rare over the last two years in the NWSL as the Courage have dominated league play.
As the official Chief Herald here at RSL Soapbox, it is my duty to walk us through this match up and hit on the high and not so high points.
Let’s begin, shall we?
Death by 1000 call ups
Laura Harvey put together a solid team with a laundry list of talented players. She carefully seemed to craft a team that suited each other and her style as a coach. And now, she has to watch as the strings are pulled one by one until holes start to form over important parts.
Utah has suffered adding three players to the season-ending injury list on top of six players heading to the Women’s World Cup this summer in France. The massive impact on the team has been felt since the first group, the USWNT players, left.
Christen Press in the attack, Desiree Scott in the midfield and Becky Sauerbrunn on defense seem to be the obvious missing pieces over the last two games. But the spark that Kelley O’Hara is often able to provide shouldn’t be understated. Things are only about to get worse with Katie Bowen and Rachel Corsie heading out to join their teams before the Women’s World Cup.
As the saying goes, “Hold on to your butts.”
The energy drop after scoring is real
Utah has been the most consistent team in the league when it comes to scoring. The problem seems to be their consistency to score one goal a game, and then have a drop off in drive and energy that haunts them for the rest of the match.
Amy Rodriguez scored a slightly bizarre half sliding goal that should have been stopped by Katelyn Rowland. Rowland looked at it, assuming it would go out before it rolled perfectly into the bed.
And then…well, the energy dropped off, and the team looked ready to bunker for the rest of the match. With most of the match left to play, they really didn’t have much of a solid, sweeping attack. It was as if their foot slipped off the gas, and they couldn’t find it again to press down.
Utah have to figure out how to link up and create not just more goals, but more solid chances that might lead to goals or this is going to be a season that sees them unable to keep up with the rest of the pack.
Club over county is still the U.S. norm
While there are some fans who might prefer club over country, players are called up whenever head coach Jill Ellis decides, and the players have little say in when.
Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press may have liked to take on North Carolina, like their New Zealand teammate Katie Bowen, who they played a few days before in St. Louis. But the truth is, even with the off seemingly free weekend for the players, they weren’t allowed to.
The camera panned a few times during the match to the group of USWNT players wearing North Carolina polo shirts, each time making my blood boil a little more at how silly it was they had been out for two matches already. While I do not blame the players for missing the game, or the Utah players for not attending it, it does put into contrast the fact they are somewhat separate from the rest of the league.
Most Noble Order of the Lioness
My favorite part of writing this piece is always figuring out who I will be putting up to this Most Noble order. As much as breakdown down the match and writing another related issues is my bread and better, The Order of the Lioness is the perfect pickle on the side that brings it all together.
This week the nomination goes to the departing captain of the Scottish women’s national team, Rachel Corsie. Her deft tackles to limit Lynn Williams from getting more shots on goal made a lot of the difference as to why Utah ended up with one point and not zero. While she did have a part to play in the goal scored against, the good outweighed the bad.
That leaves Vero Boquete as the sole Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Lioness with Desiree Scott, Christen Press and now Rachel Corsie needing one more nomination to officially join the order.