When she can get (one-on-one) and get at someone is where I think she feels most confident. We know that about her. —Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey, on Kealia Ohai
SANDY — The first matchup between Utah Royals FC and the Houston Dash in the second game of the season provided quite the statistical anomaly.
In URFC’s six other contests thus far, it has averaged 433.5 passes per game, but it produced a whopping 669 passes against the Dash as much of the evening’s action took place in the middle third of the field, ending in a 0-0 draw.
As they get ready for a rematch Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, both teams have become considerably more dynamic since that Mar. 30 showdown. URFC has gotten Amy Rodriguez back from injury and Katrina Gorry has arrived from international duty with Australia, and the club has scored five goals in its last four matches.
Houston, on the other hand, has a completely different front line. Most notably, team captain, former Alta High School star and current United States Women’s National Team member Kealia Ohai made her season debut Apr. 24 after tearing her ACL last summer, while England’s Rachel Daly is leading the squad with two goals thus far.
“Obviously I haven’t played Houston, but I think we’ve really been progressing in the right direction the last few games of playing the ball around nicely and we’re creating more chances in the front third,” Gorry said earlier this week, “so I think if we keep doing that, our defense has been pretty strong and if we score a few more goals we’ll be fine.”
URFC is well-rested having not played since May 9, although the time off wasn’t enough to get Kelley O’Hara healthy after she re-aggravated the injury that has been bothering her since the season opener.
It is officially listed as a right hamstring strain, although URFC head coach Laura Harvey said it could be something more complicated than that, and the hope is that sitting her will allow the injury to heal before it gets even worse.
“She’s tough and she wants to play and she wants to play through stuff, but it’s also, at some point, bad things may happen, and this may have been the little nick that we all needed to say, ‘Let’s delve deeper into what’s going on so that we can make sure that she’s fine,’” Harvey said.
Beside O’Hara, Elise Thorsnes won’t play again for URFC because of a left hamstring strain that has kept her out for the last three matches.
While both teams’ personnel is different from their March game, Harvey predicted that Saturday will look similar to the previous matchup, although she expects the Dash’s counter-attack to be more potent.
“We know we’ve got to be prepared that when we have the ball, arguably Houston are the most dangerous because they try and turn you very quickly from your attack into them attacking,” she said. “That’s how they’ve scored their goals recently. We’re prepared for that. We know that.”
Harvey said the Dash’s style fits well into the way Ohai likes to play.
“When she can get (one-on-one) and get at someone is where I think she feels most confident,” the coach said. “We know that about her.”
As the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime, start time is set for 1:30 p.m. MT. The match will conclude a four-game homestand for URFC before it plays four straight on the road.