Sandy • After three weeks of preseason, the Utah Royals are about to dispense with the training grind and start preparing for the real thing.
The Royals are coming off a weeklong stint in Los Angeles where they faced the women’s soccer teams of California State Long Beach and the University of California. URFC dispatched each rather easily, left the sunny skies of L.A., and returned to the thin air of Salt Lake City, where they will have one more week of preseason before switching into regular-season mode.
Well, one more official week of preseason.
Due to the National Women’s Soccer League having only nine teams, one of them gets a bye for the first week of the regular season, which begins April 13. This year, that team is the Royals. The team will open its season at home April 20.
So while the other eight teams in the NWSL start preparing for opponents in earnest after this week, the Royals will have a leg up by effectively getting one extra week to iron out the kinks.
“A lot of people will say that the first game especially is still preseason. People still feel like it’s preseason,” Royals coach Laura Harvey said Wednesday. “Thankfully, we don’t have that challenge. We have that extra week where we can be diligent on the things that we need to be good at without it being about what the opposition is posing.”
An extra week of prep couldn’t hurt, especially because URFC will be one of the teams most affected by the Women’s World Cup this year. Seven Royals players are expected to compete this summer, which is among the most in the league.
Out in L.A., in addition to the team shooting the lights out, it was also able to work on improving the rhythm and familiarity among the players, midfielder Mandy Laddish said. Fellow midfielder Erika Tymrak said the team will use the extra week in furtherance of that goal.
“It’s just another week we can build, another week we can work on our chemistry and just play together,” Tymrak said.
On the flip side, the other eight teams will have a game of NWSL competition under their belts before the Royals get started. But because practices are set up to feel just as competitive as games, they don’t see that as a disadvantage.
“We have to have that kind of competition every day here,” Royals newcomer Vero Boquete said, motioning toward the field. “So we have to challenge ourselves, we have to go high intensity and we have to get really competitive. We are not fighting maybe that weekend against other teams, but we are fighting for a spot in the lineup. So I think that is really motivating.”