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Reign Report: Playing the Game of Thrones

It’s a battle of nobility between the Seattle Reign and the Utah Royals.

Photo Credit: Nikita Taparia

What You’ll Watch

Seattle Reign FC will host Utah Royals FC for the very first time this Wednesday. This will be the second meeting of the season and will see former head coach Laura Harvey return to Memorial Stadium for the first time. The last meeting ended in a 0-0 draw on June 27.

Utah currently sits in sixth place of the standing with a record of 5-4-6 (21 points in 15 games played; 1.4 ppg) while Reign FC still remains in second place with a record of 7-3-5 (26 points in 15 games played; 1.73 ppg). Last time out, Reign FC defeated the Houston Dash 3-1 and Utah lost 4-0 to Portland Thorns FC.

This is just the second all-time meeting between the two clubs and neither side has scored against each other.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: W-L-T-W-L with four goals scored and seven conceded

Leading Goal Scorer: Katie Stengel, three goals

Assist Leader: Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir, two

Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty

Utah

OUT: Alex Arlitt (left knee strain – SEI), Makenzy Doniak (left knee ACL tear – SEI), Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion – SEI), Kelley O’Hara (right hamstring strain)

Suspensions: Diana Matheson | International Duty: N/A

Seattle

OUT: Yael Averbuch (illness), Kiersten Dallstream (left quad strain)

QUESTIONABLE: Elizabeth Addo (left knee sprain), Jess Fishlock (right quad strain), Rumi Utsugi (left calf strain)

Suspensions: N/A | International Duty: N/A

Match Officials

REFEREE: Katja Koroleva

AR1: Adrienne Mcdonald

AR2: Ryan Jung

4TH: Corbyn May

What to Watch

While the Utah Royals started this season in Laura Harvey’s standard 4-3-3 formation, they have deployed a 4-4-2 diamond formation in the two games since signing Christen Press, allowing both Press and Amy Rodriguez — traditionally both strikers — to play up top together.

While this worked well in their initial game against Seattle Reign FC, it gave the Royals all sorts of trouble against Portland last weekend. Thorns coach Mark Parsons recognized how narrow the Royals played in this formation and put two speedy outside backs — Midge Purce and Ellie Carpenter — along his backline. They were able to bring more numbers and width in the midfield, and that was one of the main reasons Portland dismantled Utah 4-0.

There are a few reasons this scoreline won’t likely repeat on Wednesday. First off, Laura Harvey will assuredly make adjustments in not only how her team lines up, but which players are on the field against Reign FC. Both sides also traditionally focus on being organized defensively, as fans saw in the 0-0 draw between the teams two weeks ago. Finally, Portland’s size and strength were really what undid Utah, and Seattle doesn’t exactly match the Thorns in those categories.

Until Friday’s unraveling, Utah had the best defensive numbers in the league (Seattle now claims that title). Their organized backline and relentless pressure and aggressive play in the midfield makes it hard for teams to build play through the middle of the park. When Utah gains possession in this spot, they look to take a shot from distance or get the ball to Press to work some magic. Two weeks ago, it caused some problems for the Reign until Rumi Utsugi stayed put into that holding midfield role — shielding the backline and providing cover on Press and Rodriguez.

Offensively, Seattle had most of its luck against Utah in June when they got the ball wide and had someone making runs off of striker Jodie Taylor. Since the team lost Brooke Elby in the trade that brought Press and Sam Johnson to Utah, they have been looking for a more consistent right back. Katie Bowen did well to stop Megan Rapinoe two weeks ago, but Seattle would be smart to test that part of the field early — using a combination of Rapinoe and Steph Catley to overload the left side with numbers.

Wednesday marks the first time Laura Harvey will be at Memorial Stadium on the opposition’s bench. In a battle between nobility, only one can claim the throne. If Seattle takes advantage of its chances and contains Utah’s dangerous strikers, the throne is theirs for the taking.

Quick Keys

  • Use the width: Push numbers on the wings to pull Utah’s defenders and create space for Jodie Taylor and the center of the field.
  • Manage the midfield: Don’t get pressured off the ball in the middle of the field, and make Utah’s midfielders chase the ball.
  • Cut off passes into the attack: Don’t get caught out of shape. Prevent Press from getting too much time on the ball by cutting off those passes into her from defense and midfield.

How to Watch

Date/Time: Wednesday, July 11 @ 7:30 PM

Location: UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium — Seattle, WA

Streaming: go90.com & nwslsoccer.com