2019 NWSL season review: Utah Royals FC
Photo Credit: Andrew Bershaw -Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On paper, Utah Royals FC have a lot of veteran talent on their roster and at the beginning of the season it looked like the team was positioned well to pick up points while players were away at the World Cup and make a push for the playoffs. The team ended the season with a 10-10-4 record, finishing in sixth place in the league. 

Defensively sound

Defensively, Utah was pretty solid this season. Over the course of the 24 games the team only conceded 25 goals, only one more goal than the North Carolina Courage who allowed the least goals in the league. Nicole Barnhart started all 24 games this season and earned ten clean sheets, the most of any goalkeeper in the league this season. 

Biggest Win: August 11, 2019 vs. Reign FC

The Royals defeated Reign FC with a score of 3-1 in this match. This game was only the second time the entire season that Utah scored more than two goals in a game. Katie Stengel tapped in a goal for the first tally of the match before Reign FC was able to tie it up going into halftime. After the break, Lo’eau LaBonta scored regaining the lead for the Royals. Amy Rodriguez would secure the three points, scoring the last goal of the match. 

Biggest Loss: September 25, 2019 vs. Reign FC

Going into the match, both the Royals and Reign FC were fighting for the last playoff spot. Essentially a win for either team in this match would have guaranteed a fourth place finish in the league. Reign FC would score the first goal and keep the lead until the 67th minute when Katie Stengel found the equalizer for the Royals. In heartbreaking fashion, Reign FC would score again in the 84th minute to secure the win. That loss for the Royals realistically knocked them out of a playoff position. 

Have to score more goals

For this offseason and into next season, the emphasis should be on gaining more attacking options, whether that be utilizing bench players more, drafting young talent, or making trades. Utah only scored 25 goals on the season. The team relied heavily on Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez to do the scoring, the two combined scored 17 of the team goals. Press had eight goals in her 14 matches played while Rodriguez had the team leading nine goals. Next season in order for the Royals to break through and make the playoffs the team will need to score more goals but they will also have to have more players putting the ball in the back of the net to take some of the pressure off of Rodriguez and Press. 

Unsung Hero

A pleasant surprise for Utah this season was how crucial Lo’eau LaBonta was to the team. LaBonta commanded the midfield, starting all but two of the teams matches this season. LaBonta did more of the scrappy work but she had 970 successful passes and a pass success rate of 78%. She also finished the season with two assists and two goals.