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Orlando Pride vs. Utah Royals FC: Intelligence Report

Our friends from RSL Soapbox share their thoughts on Orlando at Utah in a post-World-Cup-departures world.

Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Orlando Pride return to action this week on the road, still looking for their first win. With eight players off with their respective national teams in preparation for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it might be a good idea to simply introduce everyone to the players who remain behind to play actual league games. Instead of that, let’s just find out more about the team that Orlando will battle tomorrow night.

Once again, to learn more about the Pride’s next opponent, I spoke with Lucas Muller, one of the editors over at SB Nation’s RSL Soapbox. I answered Lucas’ questions as well and you can read those over at their place.

Aside from Amy Rodriguez, which Utah players will help carry the Royals while some of the team’s stars are away on World Cup duty?

Lucas Muller: Gunny Jonsdottir has been a huge asset to the team since the team began last season. She’s played ever single minute in club history. With Desiree Scott out with Canada, we’ve seen Jonsdottir shift into a defensive midfield position rather than her box-to-box role. Scott has been excellent for the Royals, and while Gunny’s skill set it a bit different, she should be a decent replacement there. It was sad to see Iceland narrowly missing out on a World Cup spot, but selfishly it’s good to know the team will have Jonsdottir.

Vero Boquete has been a joy to watch. The former Spanish captain has incredible skill on the ball. She has one assist this season, and hasn’t quite connected to the attack as well as one would hope. However, she is a new arrival and that should come with time.

Utah seems to be playing with a lot of confidence in 2019. With internationals coming in and out of the lineup, how has the team sustained that and is it sustainable for the full 2019 season?

LM: The Royals are coming off a tie in North Carolina last weekend, and a loss at home against Houston the weekend before, so the form has felt a bit shaker as they’ve lost internationals. That should turn around as this group of players gel a bit more, but Orlando will be a good test. The back line is the area of the field that has suffered most with center backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Corsie now gone. Kelley O’Hara, who hasn’t started yet this season, is also with the U.S., and Katie Bowen will be joining New Zealand soon. What gives me hope is Becca Moros returning to health. She’s been an excellent outside back and filled in for O’Hara nicely last season. Rookie Michelle Maemone has done well as a left back. Center back Samantha Johnson has struggled her last two games, but is a quality player that should do well. Since the attack hasn’t changed all that much from the early part of last season, there’s a good shout that the Royals can weather the World Cup nicely.

What are some of the weaknesses Utah has shown this year that you think Marc Skinner’s Pride might try to exploit on Saturday?

LM: The Pride should press and go for goals. Utah Royals’ defense is their weakest piece at present. We saw the Courage pull the team out with some ease, so it’s conceivable that the Pride could do likewise. Nicole Barnhart has been excellent in goal. She’s the oldest player in the NSWL, but had it not been for Hope Solo, likely would’ve been the starting keeper for the U.S. for years. If Orlando is able to pull URFC’s defenders out a bit, they could create enough space to get past Barnie. Without Scott in the d-mid role, this isn’t an impossible task.

Which players will be out due to injury/international duty/suspension, and what is your projected lineup and your score prediction?

LM: Out: Brittany Ratcliffe (left knee), Maddie Nolf (left hip), Taylor Lytle (left foot).

Questionable: Sydney Miramontez (right foot).

International duty: Becky Sauerbrunn (USA), Kelley O’Hara (USA), Christen Press (USA), Desiree Scott (CAN), Diana Matheson (CAN).

Projected Lineup: Nicole Barnhart; Michelle Maemone, Samantha Johnson, Gaby Vincent, Becca Moros; Gunny Jonsdottir, Mandy Laddish, Veronica Boquete, Lo’eau LaBonta; Amy Rodriguez, Katie Stengel.

Score prediction: 2-1 to Utah Royals.

Once again, I want to thank Lucas for his insight into the Utah Royals.