The Portland Thorns (6-2-4) head to Sandy, Utah to take on the Utah Royals (5-4-2) for their second matchup of the season. It’s the USWNT return match, but given their workload at the World Cup it’s very unclear how much time on the field any given USWNT player is going to spend.
The Royals started off strongly this season but only have one win from their last five and currently find themselves outside the playoff berths by a point. Vero Boquete isn’t back from injury yet, but their USWNT players are coming back at an important time for them, since they’ve looked short of creativity and ball movement on the front line. Not being able to put up any decent chances against Sky Blue FC is usually a sign that something isn’t quite going right going forward.
When asked what he expected of matching up against Utah, Parsons pointed to three different ways that the Royals could play. Either “they do their normal stuff, they do what they did to us here [when Utah played the Thorns in Providence Park] — they changed drastically for us — or, because of their last two results, they could go off in a different direction completely, because they feel like they need to change.” Tactical flexibility will be a major talking point for the Thorns this week, given that both Utah’s game plan and starting XI are up in the air.
If there’s one area where the Thorns have consistently struggled this season, it’s in finding ways to break down organized defenses, a dilemma that was on clear display when Portland played the Royals in June. “They didn’t want our pace and our energy and intensity to be a factor in the game,” Parsons said. Although Purce had moments of success dribbling at Utah’s back line, she was often isolated up front, and many of the chances she had were hit off-frame.
How to Watch
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
When: Friday, July 16, 7:00 p.m. (Pacific)
Portland Thorns: 6-2-4, 2nd place in the NWSL, won 4-3 vs Orlando Pride
Utah Royals: 5-4-2, 5th place in the NWSL, lost 1-0 at Sky Blue FC