SANDY — Last week as Utah Royals FC got ready to face the Chicago Red Stars at Rio Tinto Stadium, a big talking point was how it would be the National Women’s Soccer League’s first week of the season without United States Women’s National Team players as they began preparations for the World Cup.
The departures had a particularly big impact on the Utah-Chicago game, as seven of the 23 players on the USWNT roster are on one of those teams.
This week, it’s Canada’s turn to take the spotlight, and it will have a major impact on URFC’s Saturday afternoon home contest against the Houston Dash.
While Canada’s World Cup roster won’t officially be announced until later this month, 10 Canadians in the NWSL were called in earlier this week to a preliminary World Cup camp, and six of them are on the two rosters that will play Saturday.
Houston is the only team in the NWSL that doesn’t have a USWNT player on its roster, but it has a league-high four Canadians, all of whom are significant contributors for the club (Lindsay Agnew, Allysha Chapman, Nichelle Prince, Sophie Schmidt). NWSL-best URFC has two Canadians who have been called in for national team duty (Desiree Scott and Diana Matheson).
URFC and the Dash are the only two teams in the league who will have more than one Canadian gone.
As usual, the message from URFC is that departures will give lesser-featured players a chance to step up.
“We have a lot of veterans on the team who are still here, and I think they’ll be huge,” URFC forward Erika Tymrak said earlier this week. “I just think that everybody coming together and having the common goal will be huge for us.”
Some good news for URFC is that the squad has gotten slightly healthier compared to last week, at least as measured by the injury report. Veteran Becca Moros has been upgraded to questionable after missing the first three games of the season, while Makenzy Doniak, who tore her ACL in February 2018 and was acquired by URFC last June, is off the report altogether and could see her first-ever minutes for URFC.
One Houston player who will certainly be familiar to fans is former Alta High School star Kealia Ohai, who finished her prep career second all-time in state history with 127 goals, four behind 2006 Olympic bobsled silver medalist Shauna Rohbock.
Earlier this week, Ohai won NWSL Goal of the Week honors for an impressive strike on Sunday against the Orlando Pride, her first goal of the season.Comment on this story
The Dash enter Saturday third in the NWSL table with a record of 2-1-1 under first-year head coach James Clarkson. URFC will be looking to improve its record to 4-0-0 and widening its lead atop the table.
“To be honest, we want more,” Tymrak said. “We’re hungry. Three shutouts, three clean sheets and three wins, it feels great, but it’s just a starting point for us and I think we’re just excited for the rest of the season, but I think it’s a really good spot to build from.”
Start time is set for 1:30 p.m. MDT.