The Utah Royals FC have had a bit of a rough start to their inaugural season. They haven’t been able to win a game yet, they have been the victim of some rather questionable officiating, and they have some key players coming off injuries. But that doesn’t mean that they haven’t had their moments of greatness either—they opened Rio Tinto Stadium to over 16,000 fans for their home opener, they’ve had many hard-fought draws against major competitors, and we have seen flashes of brilliance from their individual players. What the Royals need to do now is make all of their fabulous moving parts fit together. And they will. The tide will turn in their favor. The wheel will spin. And they just might end up on top when all is said and done.
Here are just five reasons why:
1. Their Roster Is Pretty Great
When looking at the Royals’ roster there aren’t a lot of holes that need filling. Unlike other teams, who may need to look to acquire more support in their midfield or defense, Utah is pretty solid all the way around. Sure, they don’t have as many ‘big’ names as some other teams, but they have quality position players that know what their roles are for the team. Of course they have Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara from the USWNT, but they also have players like Desiree Scott who will gladly provide a tough tackle, or Gunny Jónsdóttir who adds creativity to their attack. So a team like Utah does not have to hang their hat on a few individual players for its success. It is the collective whole that will allow them to be a force going forward into the season. And that is something that only a few teams are able to say this season.
2. Their Draws Have Been Heartbreaking But Promising
So it’s true that Utah has not won a match yet this season. But they have only lost one. And the four draws that they do have on their record have been real heartbreakers. But they have also shown every other team in the league that the Royals are a force to be reckoned with. And let’s not lie to ourselves—the match against Orlando should have been a win, because Becky Sauerbrunn’s face is definitely not a hand. But another thing to consider when evaluating these draws is who they have been against. Sure, the second one against Houston was unexpected. But they also drew against North Carolina and Portland, who have arguably two of the strongest rosters in the league. Honestly, not having a win yet can be discouraging, but their draws haven’t been the worst.
3. Some Players Still Getting Back To Full Health/Form
Although the majority of Utah’s players are able to take the field, that does not necessarily mean they are up to full form yet. For example, Kelley O’Hara is currently battling a bit of a hamstring issue. She has still been performing decently, but she hasn’t been playing a full 90 minutes. She is getting back up to that, but there is still reason to play her cautiously. Another example is Amy Rodriguez. She is just now getting up to form after tearing her ACL in Kansas City FC’s season opener last season. She had a marvelous goal in Utah’s last match against Portland, but she still has a little ways to go until she is in top form again. She will undoubtedly get there. And once that happens—once key players are fully healthy and up to form—well, Utah is going to be something to shake a stick at.
4. Harvey Will Not Let Them Lose
Laura Harvey is the NWSL’s most winningest coach. She is great at what she does. She is involved. She is focused. And damn if she isn’t the kind of coach that players want to win for. But Laura Harvey is also more than just a coach. She is an orchestrator. And the thing that she likes to orchestrate most is greatness. We can see it when a call or a result doesn’t go her way. She is never satisfied. And she will look at all her options available to change the outcome the next time around. So Laura Harvey is not just going to sit around a allow a team with the talent that Utah has lose. Sure, some losses are unavoidable. Sometimes teams just get outplayed. But Laura Harvey will look to ensure that she produces the best version that her team can be.
5. Time Is On Their Side
It’s early. And that is a great thing for the Utah Royals. They have time to figure it out. They have time to tweak their game. They have time to make this season truly historic. While other teams could peak a bit too soon, Utah is on the uphill trajectory that allows them to strengthen throughout the climb. They are only five matches in. They have 19 left. And a lot can happen in 19 matches, not just for Utah, but for other teams too.
So I am of the belief that Utah just needs to keep calm and carry on. They are on the right path. The pendulum will begin to swing their way. And when it does, they are primed to take it into their hands and not let it go. Their players will get up to full form, their draws will become wins, and with Laura Harvey at the helm of the ship, the team has little to fear. Sure, it has been a slow start, but this still very well may be Utah’s season.