Three takeaways from Utah Royals FC’s 2-0 loss to Seattle Reign

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC defender Samantha Johnson (16) collides with Seattle Reign FC forward Shea Groom (2) in soccer action between Utah Royals FC and Seattle Reign FC in Sandy, Friday, June 28, 2019.

Here are three thoughts on the Utah Royals FC’s 2-0 loss to the Seattle Reign

1. Bad night all around

Coach Laura Harvey said it best after the game: It was too bad that on Samantha Johnson’s last game as a soccer player came in a loss like that. The Royals gave up two goals in the span of five minutes and went into a bye week third in the league standings.

The team as a whole seemed confounded at the reason why the game played out the way it did. Midfielder Mandy Laddish plainly said that the Royals just weren’t good enough.

The two goals Utah gave up happened on sequences where Seattle’s attackers received passes through Royals center backs and had clean looks at the goal. The defensive effort was uncharacteristic of a team that has been atop the league in shutouts all season. It was the third time Utah has given up two goals to an opponent.

“We just didn’t show up, to be honest,” Gunnhildur Jonsdottir said. “If we're going to show up like that every week, we can forget about the playoffs.”

Harvey said she knew something was wrong before the game even started. And she added that in the last five games, the team has only “physically performed” in one of them, and that was last week against Portland.

“There’s something not right,” Harvey said.

2. Lack of scoring for second straight game

In the last 180 minutes of play, URFC has scored exactly zero goals. It's not las though it was lighting up the scoreboard beforehand, either. In the two prior games, the Royals scored just once. One of those games, however, was a win.

But here’s the problem. As good a defensive team as the Royals have been so far this season, they really struggle offensively. It wasn’t as much a concern to star the season. But now, just two games from the halfway point of the 2019 campaign, it’s safe to say Utah’s lack of scoring is a trend.

“I just think that we aren’t connecting as lines,” Laddish said. “I think we need to train a little bit more and get used to one another. But sometimes it’s just bad luck, and we just haven’t been on when we need to be on. It just hasn’t worked out for us.”

The Royals didn’t get much of anything going forward all night against the Reign. They were outshot 12-7 and had half as many shots on goal as Seattle, which tallied four. They could really use Christen Press right about now, but it looks like she won’t be back for a couple more weeks with the United States Women’s National Team looking poised to make the Women’s World Cup Final.

3. Let’s get physical

The numbers aren’t indicative of it, but parts of the game between the Royals and the Reign were a slugfest. The teams combined for 15 fouls, and one player from each side picked up a yellow card.

It seemed, however, that every few minutes someone was making a hard tackle or challenge. Just minutes into the game, a Seattle player put her hand into Jonsdottir’s face, leaving her shaken up for a bit. Jonsdottir was hit in the face again later in the game, this time while fighting for a ball in the air. She fell to the ground immediately, writing in pain, and was attended to by a Utah trainer for a while.

There were also two substitutions made due to injury. Seattle’s Jessica Fishlock had to be carried off the field on a stretcher, and Mallory Weber left the game after two challenges left her limping.

But Jonsdottir was not at all surprised by the physicality of the game.

“That’s the NWSL, I would say,” Jonsdottir said. “If we’re not ready to meet that, then we shouldn’t be playing in this league. We just need to get physical back. They’re going to come hard on us, we have to come hard back. We didn’t do that today.”

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