In search of goals and points, Utah Royals FC plays host to struggling Sky Blue Wednesday night

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC midfielder Desiree Scott (11) ends up on top of North Carolina Courage forward Kristen Hamilton (23) as Utah Royals FC hosts the North Carolina Courage at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Saturday, July 27, 2019.

Sandy • Ten games.

That’s all Utah Royals FC has to turn around a season is quickly careening into the disappointing column. And the first of those games — Wednesday against last-place Sky Blue FC — could be the most important of them all.

That’s the sentiment Veronica Boquete gave after last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Chicago Red Stars. A few days later, at least one of her teammates and coach Laura Harvey agreed.

Harvey said Monday after training that every single game matters from this point forward, particularly the ones at Rio Tinto Stadium. After Wednesday, the Royals won’t play a home game until Sept. 6.

“I think that the July that we had has put us in a difficult spot that now wins at home are vital,” Harvey said. “Knowing it’s at home, knowing then we’ve got multiple games away — you can’t ignore how massive it is.”

Sky Blue sits ninth in the nine-team National Women’s Soccer League and has only won two games all season. But the last time Royals faced the team from New Jersey, they lost on a stoppage-time goal. And after getting a result against Portland over the weekend, Utah will likely not take Sky Blue lightly.

But beating the worst team in the league, at home, after only earning two points in the previous six games is on everyone’s minds.

“A win right now would be great for morale on and off the pitch and just for us to get the ball rolling again,” midfielder Desiree Scott said.

Utah wants the ball to roll into the net more often. Harvey, who prides herself on being a defensive-minded coach, said the team has to start creating and scoring more goals. It’s virtually the same refrain she’s sung after each of the last three games, two of which were losses.

Not even a week ago, several Royals spoke about the team’s need to find a balance between scoring and defending. But Harvey would like to see some goals — and seems willing to adjust to make a few happen.

“I will always be a coach that tries to be hard to beat,” Harvey said. “But I’m currently going against all of that to try and drag out more of the creative side of this team.”

Forward Christen Press is expected back in the lineup against Sky Blue. She, Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn recently returned from their victory-tour stint with the United States Women’s National Team. Harvey said having Press will help the team score more goals, but she still wants to see creativity team-wide.

“We’re in this rut right now that until we score multiple goals, the games seem to get away from us,” Harvey said. “So it’s definitely a focus.”

Neither Scott nor midfielder Gunnhildur Jonsdottir believe there are significant problems with how the Royals are playing lately. Rather, they said it’s the little things that need cleaning up, and Scott said some of those can be ironed out during film sessions.

Jonsdottir thinks it’s only a matter of time until the Royals break out of their current slump.

“It’s going to click,” Jonsdottir said. “And when it does, we’re going to back to the Utah Royals we want to be.”


At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah

Kickoff » Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Radio » ESPN 700

Last meeting » Sky Blue 1, URFC 0 (July 12)

Records » URFC 5-6-3, Sky Blue 2-10-3

About Sky Blue FC » Mandy Freeman (Right Achilles) and Madison Tiernan (Left Knee) are out, while Nahomi Kawasumi (Left Knee), Gina Lewandowski (Left Foot), Domi Richardson (Left Ankle) are questionable to play. … Coming off a draw against the Portland Thorns. … Raquel Rodriguez leads with three goals, while three other players have two apiece. … All 10 goals have come from inside the 18-yard box.

About URFC » Christen Press and Becky Sauerbrunn returned from international duty. … Becca Moros (Right Leg) is out, while Mandy Laddish (Concussion) and Kelley O’Hara (Left Ankle) are questionable. …Press and Amy Rodriguez have eight of the team’s 11 goals on the season. … Currently on a six-game winless streak.

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