Utah Royals FC need a win to stay within touching distance of the playoff spots in the National Women's Soccer League but they will to find a way past a Reign FC side that has proven to be resilient despite their numerous injuries.
All things considered, a win for the Royals would push them into fifth while the Reign know that three points for them puts them near to if not on top, of the NWSL table. The consequences of the game sets things up nicely for what should be an intriguing tactical battle at Rio Tinto Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Press is on fire and looking to lead Utah to the playoffs
Christen Press' Royals career may have started off slow but since returning from winning the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup with the United States Women's National Team, Press has scored four goals in three games. Press' impressive (no pun intended) form has helped Utah recover from a slump that had seen them win one game in five before the return of their USWNT players. Even when she does not get on the score sheet, Press is freeing up space for the rest of her teammates to exploit and someone like Amy Rodriguez has benefited from having the attention taken away from her. As long as Utah keep giving the ball to Press in the final third, she will make things happen and at the rat she is scoring at, potentially help them reach the NWSL Playoffs for the first time in their history.
The one worry for Utah is what they will do if Press is marked out of the game. Against Portland Thorns FC having Kelley O'Hara on the field helped the Royals not only defensively but in attack as well as O'Hara and Press linked up brilliantly during that game. Since then, O'Hara picked up an injury during a recent USWNT friendly which now leaves Vero Boquete as Utah's other creative force on the field. Boquete has shown that she and Press can form a great partnership as well given time but again, Utah will need more than just Press and Boquete to break down what will surely be a tough Reign defense tomorrow.
The Reign keep proving everyone wrong
With an injury list as long as Reign FC's, many people wrote them off this season, especially when Jess Fishlock went down with an ACL injury a few weeks ago but somehow, the Reign have bounced back from two straight defeats by producing two great performances and picking up back to back wins. None more impressive than their midweek game against the Thorns where a Rosie White goal gave them a platform for the likes of Lauren Barnes, Megan Oyster and goalkeeper Casey Murphy to keep Portland out of their goal. What Vladko Andonovksi has down with such a limited roster cannot be underestimated and with how resolutely his team defend, they will look to keep Press quite and pick up another tough three points.
Where the Reign have struggled is offensively and that cannot be entirely be at the fault of Andonovski. Most of his offensive players have season-ending injuries and Megan Rapinoe is still not fit enough to start yet for the Reign. Instead, the Reign brought in White who is beginning to look the part for the Tacoma-based outfit, and rookie Bethany Balcer who has shown signs of becoming a very good player in the league. Apart from those two though, the Reign are still struggling in front of goal and may need to score more than one goal to get the three points against Utah. However, if anyone can silence a high-powered attacking player, it's the Reign so maybe one goal may prove to be enough again for them.