SANDY — For as good as Utah Royals FC was defensively in its 1-1 draw against the North Carolina Courage last Sunday, the squad continued a negative pattern that dates back to last season.
After finishing seventh in the nine-team National Women’s Soccer League in goals scored in 2018, URFC enters Saturday’s game against the NWSL-worst Orlando Pride at Rio Tinto Stadium in that same spot through five contests in 2019.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that things are much the same as they were last season given that the attacking personnel is the same (the addition of midfielder Vero Boquete has helped the attack, but that hasn’t directly resulted in more goals), but URFC is working to improve nonetheless.
“I think now we just want to look more on our side, correct ourselves with the ball, do better in that aspect and we’ll come out with a good result,” midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta said earlier this week. “The fight’s there. It’s just working on the soccer now.”
LaBonta said head coach Laura Harvey stressed during a film session this week the need to simply take more shots. The more shots taken, the thinking goes, the higher the chances are of finding the back of the net.
Indeed URFC could certainly improve in that department, as it is last in the league in total shots so far with just 39 after finishing 2018 in the same spot.
“I think it’s just gaining that confidence, because a lot of times in our games, I think because we are unselfish in a way, we want to get another player a goal or hit that really good ball to get them shots on goal,” LaBonta said. “It’s just having our strikers, maybe our 10, our attackers in general getting more confidence and selfishness in hitting those shots.”Comment on this story
Some potential good news for URFC on this front is that on Saturday it will face a Pride team that has given up a league-worst 13 goals on the season, three more than any other squad (Orlando has also scored a league-worst two goals, two fewer than any team).
While total time of possession doesn’t ultimately mean a whole lot, the Utah Royals did have more of the ball when the two teams met on April 27 in Orlando, which wound up being a 1-0 win for Harvey’s side.
“I think the challenge for us is when we know that we’re going to have a lot of the ball, that we’ve got to make sure that side of the game stays within is,” Harvey said earlier this week. “I think that’s our biggest challenge, honestly.”
Start time for Saturday is 6 p.m. MT.