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Wednesday Reign: Utah Royals FC @ Reign FC match preview

Utah Royals FC return to Cheney Stadium to face Reign FC for the third and final time for the 2019 regular season.

Nikita Taparia

Match Details

Utah Royals FC (9-6-3)
@ Reign FC (8-5-7)

When: Wednesday, September 18 | 8:00 PM MT

Where: Cheney Stadium | Tacoma, WA

Weather: 65 degrees, rainy

TV: KMYU

Live Stream: Yahoo Sports app, KSL app, NWSLSoccer.com

Radio: ESPN 700

Welp. Okay, fam. Last Friday’s 2-1 loss to Houston was not good. It could have been a major setback. The good news is that Reign FC only gained one point from their draw vs. Washington Spirit. So, for now, Utah remains in the fourth spot, tied with Reign FC, but due to the tiebreaker of goal differential against the Reign, Royals FC has the edge. This means that Wednesday’s matchup is big time because the winner will take sole possession of fourth place.

Utah vs. Reign FC 2019 meetings: 2
-June 28, 2019 - Rio Tinto Stadium
Reign FC 2; URFC 0
-August 11, 2019 - Cheney Stadium
URFC 3; URFC 1

All-Time Series Record: 1-3-1

For Utah, no more setbacks allowed

Utah enters Wednesday’s game on a losing note after a 2-1 defeat to the Houston Dash, breaking a five-game unbeaten streak, which helped keep them in contention for the race for the postseason. Utah is twelve points away from first place North Carolina Courage, five from third place, and seven points away from the second place spot. The gap in points has certainly widened, so if Utah hopes to make the post-season, their best bet is finishing in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th spot.

With four games remaining in the season, their fate will be decided in this final stretch. The schedule is a tough one with games against Reign FC, North Carolina, Chicago, and Houston. Every point matters. Should Utah lose more than two of these four games, they can start preparing for 2020 instead.

For now, the attention is all on Reign FC, a team URFC beat 3-1 back on August 11, their first win over Reign FC in franchise history. Utah and Reign FC have a win each over the other so far in 2019.

URFC Stats

Clean Sheets: 10
Goals Conceded: 17
Goals Conceded (per game): 0.8
Total Shots: 193
Shots on Target: 94
Goals Scored: 21
Leading scorers: Amy Rodriguez - 8 goals; Christen Press - 6 goals

Keys to winning:

  • Play like you want to make the postseason. Utah tends to settle and play like the teams they play. If they play a top team, they tend to be more competitive. If they play a team near the bottom of the table, they play like a team at the bottom of the table. In the game against Houston, Utah failed to pressure, and when they had the ball, the ball failed to move forward. It’s too late in the season to do that. Utah must play like they want their season to continue. They must work to create chances and play with resiliency.
  • The final third matters. I was listening to the Utah Royals FC Show, and Wirtjo Leonard mentioned that Utah’s passing in the final third is abysmal, so abysmal that the attacking players are in the 40% passing accuracy range in comparison to the midfield and defensive 90%. No wonder Utah has a hard time scoring if its forwards cannot work together to create chances. The final third matters, and Utah must figure out how to create teamwork in the final third.

Utah Royals FC Injury Report

OUT: Brittany Ratcliffe (SEI-Left Knee), Taylor Lytle (SEI-Left Foot), Becca Moros (Right Leg), Kelley O’Hara (Left Ankle), Mandy Laddish (Right Hip), Makenzy Doniak (Left Foot)

QUESTIONABLE: Christen Press (Left Leg), Vero Boquete (Left Thigh)

Since we last saw the Reign...

Record: 8-5-7 (31 points, 5th place)
Head Coach: Vlatko Andonovski
Clean Sheets: 6
Goals Conceded: 23
Goals Conceded (per game): 1.1
Total Shots: 226
Shots on Target: 91
Goals Scored: 21

Players to Watch: Bethany Balcer - 4 goals, 2 assists; Darian Jenkings - 3 goals
Casey Murphy - 52 saves, 5 clean sheets, 22 clearances

Since last playing Utah on August 11, Reign FC have won one game, lost one, and recorded two draws. It hasn’t been a good stretch of games for the Tacoma-based team. Still, they have managed to remain as one of the teams in contention for the playoffs, even with a team missing key players due to injuries (see Injury Report below). They will likely present a challenge to Utah, especially if URFC does not play well, like they did against Houston.

Reign FC Injury Report

OUT: Taylor Smith (SEI – Right Knee), Jasmyne Spencer (SEI – Left Knee), Michelle Betos (SEI – RightAchilles), Jaycie Johnson (SEI – Right Knee), Scout Watson (SEI – Concussion), Jessica Fishlock (SEI – Left Knee), Shea Groom (Rib)

QUESTIONABLE: Allie Long (Left Hip), Rosie White (Left Hip)

Prediction

Honestly, I’m not sure. Utah needs a win here, for sure. Anything less than three points will likely hurt their chances for the playoffs. Should Utah get their act together for this game, it’s a 1-0 win. They may be without Christen Press, however, who may miss the game due to a left leg injury, and that will be certainly impact Utah’s offensive spark.