Utah Royals FC more successful offensively in 2020 opener. Is there a defensive trade-off?

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Utah Royals FC forward Tziarra King (3) receives a hug from teammate Lo’eau LaBonta after scoring against the Houston Dash during the second half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match at Zions Bank Stadium Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Herriman. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

HERRIMAN — One match in, and Craig Harrington has delivered on his pledge, even if it was far from a straightforward path to get there.

Harrington, the new head coach of Utah Royals FC, said when he got the job in February that his team would be more potent offensively, and that certainly occurred Tuesday morning as URFC drew 3-3 with the Houston Dash in both teams’ opening game of the NWSL Challenge Cup at Zions Bank Stadium.

“Three in the back for me, it allows you to push numbers up in the midfield. It gives you good width … also it allows you to play two center forwards. If you look at historically in this league, two center forwards have done extremely well, so that’s something I want to do.” — URFC coach Craig Harrington

To put the three goals in perspective, in the club’s first two seasons combined in Utah, it scored that many times in a game on just three occasions in 48 tries.

“I promised we’d get goals,” he opened is postmatch press conference on Tuesday. “We got goals.”

There are a couple of important caveats in there, though, as URFC trailed 3-1 in the 82nd minute before a wild finish saw them score twice down the stretch, and one of the goals came on a free kick from Vero Boquete.

Still, it came as URFC is playing the tournament without United States Women’s National Team forward Christen Press, which means every attack-minded player on a squad that struggled to score even with her in the lineup had that much more responsibility to try to find the net.

Nevertheless, Harrington moved forward with the idea of playing with just three defenders on the back line as opposed to the four his predecessor Laura Harvey would employ. His thinking, he explained, comes down to a simple math problem. If there’s one less player defending, one more player can get forward to try to score.

“Three in the back for me, it allows you to push numbers up in the midfield,” he said. “It gives you good width … also it allows you to play two center forwards. If you look at historically in this league, two center forwards have done extremely well, so that’s something I want to do.”

Diana Matheson, who missed all of 2019 because of injury but played to the 88th minute Tuesday and scored URFC’s first goal of the day in the 35th minute, certainly saw the number of goals as a positive on the day (rookie first-round pick Tziarra King scored the equalizer in the 89th minute in her first game as a professional).

“I know we struggled last season scoring goals, so that’s a big one,” she said, “and just the grit and heart …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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