Utah Royals FC vs Washington Spirit Preview: Finally opening week for the Royals 

Utah Royals FC vs Washington Spirit Preview: Finally opening week for the Royals 

Utah had a bye week as the rest of the NWSL played in the first games of the 2019 season. Washington earned their first three points in week one and look to continue this streak heading into week two. 

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Emily Sanzone

Although this may be the first game of the 2019 National Women's Soccer League season for Utah Royals FC, the Washington Spirit already have a game under their sleeve and that game resulted in three big points. Washington will travel to Sandy, Utah to take on the Royals in their home-opener and season-opener. The Spirit will look to continue their winning streak and give Utah an unroyal start to their season.

Washington in search of another three points  

The Spirit began their season last Saturday in a match-up against Sky Blue FC. After finishing the 2018 season with only two wins, the match against Sky Blue was an important opportunity to get points right off the bat. Although the Spirit weren't able to capitalize off of any chances in the first half, goals from newcomers Sam Staab and Megan Crosson lead the Spirit to close out opening day with a 2-0 win and a big three points. 

Spirit celebrate Crosson's game-winning goal against Sky Blue | Photo: NWSL Youtube
Spirit celebrate Crosson's game-winning goal against Sky Blue | Photo: NWSL Youtube

In 2018, the Royals swept the Spirit over three games with an overall score of 4-0. Although the win over Sky Blue was an important win, this match will be even more important for the Spirit. Taking on a team that finished in fifth place in 2018 will tell tales of how this young Spirit team will look for the upcoming season. The Spirit had the fewest goals in the league last season but were somehow able to finish ahead of Sky Blue. If the Spirit hope to improve their standings from 2018, they must get the ball in the back of the net. Scoring against the Royals will be a tough job with veteran defenders Becky Sauerbrunn, Rebecca Corsie and Kelley O'Hara in the backline but a successful season depends on the ability to score. 

Utah back for playoff revenge 

In their inaugural season, the Royals missed the playoffs by just two points. Head coach Laura Harvey is not a stranger to the NWSL playoffs and knows just what a team needs in order to get there. With probably seven players missing time with the Royals during the Women's World Cup, it'll be important for Utah to get off on the right note. Utah has been known to cause chaos in the midfield with their pressing defense. Although the Spirit looked to be able to handle Sky Blue in the midfield and defensively, the Royals will be a much bigger test. 

Playmakers that the Royals defense will have to look out for will be Mallory Pugh, Cheyna Matthews and Jordan Dibiasi. However, the plethora of experience in the backline should have no problem shutting down the young Spirit attack. Along with the defensive experience, the Royals have Christen Press, Verónica Boquete and Amy Rodriguez to improve on the attack that scored 22 goals last season. Leading goal-scorer in 2018, Katie Stengel is also available for the Royals and is big in scoring late game-winners. The Royals will be without Brittany Ratcliffe who scored the game-winner against the North Carolina Courage last season. Ratcliffe suffered an ACL injury during the preseason and will miss most of the 2019 season. 

The Spirit will travel to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah for the Royals season-opener on April 20th, 2019. The match will begin at 9pm EST and can be streamed on Yahoo! Sports, at nwslsoccer.com or on the NWSL App.

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