3 takeaways from the Utah Royals FC’s 1-0 loss to Sky Blue

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) takes a shot on goal as Utah Royals FC hosts the Houston Dash at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday May 11, 2019.

Here are three thoughts on the Utah Royals FC losing 1-0 against Sky Blue FC in stoppage time.

1. Long balls over the defense

The Royals found an effective way to create goal-scoring opportunities with Vero Boquete, the team’s most creative playmaker, still sidelined due to an ankle injury. Utah’s midfielders picked their spots to send long balls over Sky Blue’s defense to their forwards.

Amy Rodriguez was the main recipient of those sequences. In the play below, Amanda Laddish passed to Rodriguez, who nearly made Sky Blue pay for the way they defended.

Unfortunately for Utah, that chance was the closest it got to scoring by using the long ball strategy. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective or won’t be in the future. When Christen Press returns from international duty with her other United States Women’s National Team compatriots, having both her and Rodriguez to receive those long passes will make the Royals that much more dangerous when they choose to use that strategy.

2. Not much time spent in the attacking third

Sometimes — just sometimes — wonky-looking statistics can say a lot about what transpired in a game.

The Royals have had trouble scoring all season, and in particular the least three games. Utah has scored zero goals in three straight games. Missing Press and Boquete at the same time certainly contributes to that, but there are other attacking players on the roster.

Against Sky Blue, Utah had only one shot on goal. And that number could be explained by the amount of time the Royals spent in the attacking third — which was not much time at all.

Below is what’s called a Heat Map. It portrays how much time a team spends in a certain area of the field. The more red the area, the more time spent there. So when looking at the final third of the field, where Utah would presumably be the closest to Sky Blue’s goal, there’s hardly any red at all. It’s mostly yellow and blue.

Heat map for the Utah Royals FC's attacking half of the field. Data provided by Opta.

3. Seventeen seconds of anti-heaven

No one likes giving up goals. And even less like giving them up in stoppage time. Just ask Real Salt Lake.

But the way the Royals gave theirs up to Sky Blue took all of 17 seconds. And in just that sliver of time, just about everything went wrong. Here is what happened.

First, Nicole Barnhart’s goal kick just didn’t fly far enough. It’s hard to tell if that was by design, or just an honest mistake.

Second, the Royals players in the vicinity couldn’t secure the second ball, which was played directly to a Sky Blue player at first (again, probably not intentional). Then as Gaby Vincent attempts to tackle the ball away from Jennifer Hoy, Katie Bowen, who was nearby, doesn’t cover for her. Sarah Killion picks up the ball and passes to an open Hoy.

Lastly, Rachel Corsie is defending Hoy, but gets beat with a one-touch crossover. For a player as formidable as Corsie, that defense just has to be better in that situation.

All that being said: It’s the first game back for the Royals after a bye week and they’re integrating three players who have been gone for three weeks. There are bound to be growing pains. But those 17 seconds have to hurt a ton.