It’s always an entertaining chess match when Vlatko Andonovski and Laura Harvey face off. Their teams are doing just that for the first time this season on Friday, as Reign FC travels to Utah to face the Royals. The game kicks off Friday, June 28 at 7 PM PT.
It’s an important match for both sides, who in the coming weeks will welcome some of their World Cup players back into the fold. Utah currently sits in second at 5-2-2 (17 points), while Reign FC are not too far behind in fourth, with a record of 3-1-5 (14 points).
To get prepared for the first Harvey-Andonovski battle, we exchanged three questions with Lucas Muller of RSL Soapbox. Read on to learn more about how the Royals have fared during the World Cup and what we can expect from Friday’s match.
1. Utah plays a low block defensively, and against Portland last week, that resulted in a rather slow match with limited chances. Do you suspect that will change at all against the Reign? If not, where do you suspect the Royals will create their chances?
Utah Royals will play in a similar way against the Reign as they did against the Thorns last week. The 0-0 draw in Portland was a good result, even if it wasn’t the most exciting game to watch.
The loss of Vero Boquete to injury changed how the team attacks, and since she did not participate in training on Wednesday, it seems unlikely that she is available for selection this week. Vero is a tremendous talent, especially with the ball at her feet, and there’s no one else on the squad that can do what she does. She missed the Portland game as well, and without her I think we see a very similar lineup as that match.
The team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 last week, which was effective in stopping the Thorns attack. Laddish and LoBonta stayed deep, allowing Gunny to play in more of a play-maker role. It’s not the best use of Gunny’s skillset; she’s a fantastic box-to-box midfielder, but with Vero gone, she was able to slot into that position. Gunny does bring a defensive edge to the midfield, but it seems to be with a slight sacrifice in the attack.
2. Like every team in the league, Utah has been without a number of World Cup players over the last month. Which player do you think they’ve missed the most?
Desiree Scott and Christen Press have been missed most. Before the World Cup, I thought Becky Sauerbrunn’s absence would be the most noticeable, but the backline has held up fairly well without her.
Scott is an absolute destroyer in the midfield. She does so much to both protect the backline and get the ball up field to help the attack. It was heartbreaking to see Canada exit the World Cup so early, but that also means she’ll be back with URFC sooner.
The Royals have struggled to score. Amy Rodriguez is second in the league for goals scored: she has five goals this season (Sam Kerr is on six). The team only has eight goals this season, so a significant amount of goalscoring pressure has fallen to A-Rod. Press had an assist and goal in the two games she played before joining the national team. Without her, the team has lacked some of its spark in attack.
Mallory Weber joined Utah from Portland recently and has looked good, even if she has yet to register a goal or assist. The 25 year old could be a good addition to the team once she finds her feet a bit more. It was also a delight to see her win player of the match against her old team.
3. Mandy Laddish missed two years of soccer due to injuries, but has been a consistent starter in the midfield. How would you rate her performance at we near the season’s mid point?
Laddish has been a solid defensive midfielder for the Royals. It’s been amazing to see her come back and play so well after two entire years without seeing the field. She’s certainly exceeded expectations in that regard. She’s a calm presence in the midfield, has good decision making, and skill on the ball. She does get beat occasionally, which may simply be a byproduct of being away from the game for two seasons. Her return to health came at just the right time for the team, with so many players being at the World Cup. If she continues to play well, she might work her way into a starting spot even once the national team players rejoin the squad.
Laddish published a story this week on the team’s website, chronicling her journey of self-acceptance and it’s an incredible read.
Bonus question: When is Cindy gonna pay her debts and eat a sock?
Cindy will regularly and boldly talk about eating a sock if any number of things happen, but she never will. Just goes to show you can’t trust a Sporting Kansas City fan.
You can read our responses to Lucas’ questions at RSL Soapbox.