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Reign FC v. Utah Royals: Preview and Scouting Report

Can the Reign keep their winning streak alive?

Reign vs Thorns MikeRussellFoto

Sunday marks Laura Harvey’s first away game against her former team that is away from the confines of Memorial Stadium. Her Utah Royals head to Cheney Stadium to take on Reign FC in an afternoon match that kicks off at 1 PM PT.

Both teams are coming off a midweek victory at home, with the Royals taking down Sky Blue FC 3-0 and the Reign defeating the rival Thorns 1-0.

With just nine games remaining for each side, picking up points during this final stretch is crucial. Reign FC currently sit in fourth, which would earn them a playoff position if the season ended today. The Royals, meanwhile, are sitting in sixth and are five points out of a playoff spot. For them, this is starting to feel like a must-win game. The Reign certainly will be feeling the same way — as they want all the points they can get as they attempt to work their way up the league table.

The Royals don’t have the best road record, with just one win, three losses, and two draws. But a number of those matches were without their best striker in Christen Press. Utah has scored just two goals in their six road matches. They’ll need their attack to do more against a stingy Reign FC defense.

What to Watch

Formation: Lately, Utah will line up in a formation that almost looks like a 4-3-1-2 — with Katie Stengel sitting right behind the two forwards, Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez. That formation worked well against Sky Blue, as Stengel was able to draw defenders and create space for Vero Boquete, Utah’s creative engine. They may rotate personnel against the Reign, but that’s the tactic Utah will try to deploy on Sunday. With an attacking trio of Vero, ARod, and Press, they want to create diversions for the defense that free up their teammates.

First-half goals: Utah has scored 10 of its 14 goals in the first half. Getting that early momentum allows a possession-based team like Utah to set the tone early in the match and then approach the game more defensively. The Royals lead the league in passes, completing 6,949 to the Reign’s 6,178. Reign FC will want to disrupt this trend and get the first goal — or two, or three or four — and make Utah chase the game.

Attacking the flanks: Utah Royals and USWNT defender Kelley O’Hara is out on Sunday after suffering an ankle injury in the U.S. Victory Tour match against Ireland. That leaves Katie Bowen and Mallory Weber as the likely starting outside backs. Weber is new to the position, while Bowen has been a solid outside back for the last two seasons. Still, they are both vulnerable to getting pulled out of position. Reign FC’s wide players will want to test that space early — and look for cutbacks to onrushing midfielders.

Key Players

Christen Press: The U.S. forward has been a game-changer for Utah since returning from the World Cup. In their midweek match against Sky Blue, Press scored two goals and nearly got a hat-trick on a few occasions, if not for some great saves by Kailen Sheridan. Press makes well-timed runs between the centerbacks and can finish from just about anywhere. She’s also not well known for her speed but is deceptively fast. The Reign defenders cannot let her cut and have even a second to get a shot off. They’ll need to swarm her immediately.

Vero Boquete: The Spanish midfielder is so good on the ball. She can thread the needle and open up space with just one pass. She and Press have formed a formidable duo. The Reign midfield will need to play her tight and not get pulled out of shape.

Desiree Scott: The Destroyer, as she’s been nicknamed by her teammates, is everything a holding midfielder should be. She’s not fancy, but she puts herself in great positions defensively and doesn’t let attackers get around her. Utah's midfield has been so much stronger since the Canadian returned from the World Cup. You aren’t going to see her too involved in the attack, but you will notice it’s difficult to get around her. Hopefully, the Reign find a way.

Absences: Injury, international duty and suspension

Reign FC

OUT: Jasmyne Spencer (SEI - Knee), Taylor Smith (SEI - Knee), Michelle Betos (SEI - Right Achilles), Jaycie Johnson (SEI - Right Knee), Scout Watson (SEI - Concussion), Jessica Fishlock (SEI - Left Knee), Lydia Williams (45D - Left Ankle), Stephanie Cox (Right Calf), Rumi Utsugi (Left Calf), Megan Rapinoe (L Achilles), Kristen McNabb (L Soleus)

Utah

OUT: FW Brittany Ratcliffe (SEI-Left knee), DF Taylor Lytle (SEI-Left foot), DF Becca Moros (Right Leg), DF Kelley O’Hara (L ankle)

QUESTIONABLE: MF Mandy Laddish (Concussion)

By the Numbers

Reign FC

7-3-5, 26 points, 4th place | 14 goals for, 15 goals against

Bethany Balcer: 3 goals, 1 assist

Casey Murphy: 36 saves, 9 goals against, 5 clean sheets

Utah Royals FC

6-6-3, 21 points, 6th place | 14 goals for, 14 goals against

Amy Rodriguez: 6 goals | Christen Press: 5 goals, 1 assist

Nicole Barnhart: 41 saves, 14 goals against, 7 clean sheets


Reign FC versus Utah Royals kicks off at 1 PM PT on Sunday, August 11 at Cheney Stadium. The match will stream on Yahoo and the NWSL website for international fans. We’ll have a separate gamethread to discuss the match.

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