On Saturday, the North Carolina Courage will take on Utah Royals FC on the road in Sandy, Utah. In front of what promises to be a massive crowd, the Courage will be trying to get their first-ever win against the Royals. All of the USWNT players are back in action for both teams, so the Courage will be trying to shut down Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara, and Becky Sauerbrunn. We caught up with Lucas Miller of RSL Soapbox and asked a few questions.
The game kicks off at 10:00 p.m. ET tomorrow on ESPN, so make sure to tune in!
1. Utah is the only team in the league that has never lost to the Courage. Why does this Utah Royals FC side match up so well with the Courage?
Utah Royals FC have faced North Carolina Courage four times in club history and in that time they’ve won one game and drawn the other three. That win came from a moment of brilliance from Brittany Ratcliffe. She won the ball, turned, and took an absurd shot that found the back corner in the dying minutes of the game.
The reason the Royals have done so well against an incredible team like NCC is their defensive strength. Utah hasn’t been as consistent as the Courage over the past two seasons, but several of these matches came while the US players were missing. It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from those games. This will be the first game where URFC has Christen Press on the field and that will change the dynamic of the match.It is incredible how often these two teams have been able to match one another goal for goal. It’s surely not something that can last, but it’s made for some entertaining games.
2. Christen Press returned to the Utah lineup last weekend and immediately rejuvenated the offense. What offensive progress do you expect to see as the season progresses after the promising play against Portland?
The game against Portland did not start well, but the team turned things around after about 15 minutes. It seemed like the players around Press didn’t know how to work with her. It was only her third game of the season with the Royals and Vero Boquete, who does have a good on-field relationship with Press, did not start. The hope is more repetition improves play, and that’s bound to happen.
The addition to Vero added perhaps the biggest spark against Portland. A full strength Utah is a tough team, and like most NWSL teams, we haven’t seen much of that in 2019. Christen Press is one of the best attacker in the league. Her speed and creativity are such tremendous assists to the Royals that it’s difficult to understate her value. I’m surprised that Amy Rodriguez didn’t get a goal last weekend because Press pulls off so many defenders that someone with A-Rod’s quality then because a huge threat as well.
3. Despite controlling most of the game against Portland, it still took a last-second goal to earn a single point at home. What needs to change defensively to make sure that the improved offensive production generates wins for the team?
Utah came out extremely shaky against the Thorns and that’s how Portland was able to pick up that first goal. Everyone knows that O’Hara is better at clearing the ball than gently heading it to Sinclair, but that’s what happened and the Thorns are up at Rio Tinto. I’m still not sure what to make of the Thorn’s second goal. It was recorded as a Sauerbrunn own goal, but it’s the definition of a garbage goal. The backline we saw of O’Hara, Sauerbrunn, Corsie, and Bowen is extremely solid and I don’t think any changes are needed, except more time to reintegrate. Seeing the Thorns thrash the Dash 5-0 makes me feel better about a 2-2 draw.