It’s finally here.
After months of Utah Royals FC being a concept team officials and players worked to make a reality, the squad will finally hit the pitch for their first-ever game Saturday evening on the road against the Orlando Pride.
While head coach Laura Harvey and her players are looking forward to getting going, there’s a sense of uncertainty heading into the game given that a good portion of the team has only been together for about two weeks because a bunch were gone on international duty at the start of a preseason that began earlier this year than in seasons past.
“I’m excited for it,” Harvey said. “I think Orlando’s a really tough place to go for the first game, but I think it will be a really good evaluation of where we’re at right now and things that we need to keep pushing and working on.”
In that sense, the team wants to come away with a victory, but recognizes the challenge of playing together for the first time, especially against a squad that boasts stars such as Marta, Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger and Sydney Leroux.
“Obviously the expectation is to win. That’s ideal, but I think we’re going to be a little bit more lenient with mistakes,” said midfielder Desiree Scott. “We’re still building and growing as a team...I think we’re pushing for those three points but understanding that it’s the very first game and we’ve got some work to do yet.”
Added Harvey: “I always go into every game trying to win. I think that we’ve just got to make sure that we make it really difficult for them. They’re going to want to put on a show I’m sure with their home opener, so we’ve got to probably take the wave of that and stay in the game for as long as we possibly can and try and catch a break whenever possible.”
While it’s perhaps easy to deduce that players such as United States Women’s National Team members Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara will be surefire starters, Harvey said Wednesday before the team left for Orlando that she didn’t yet have her full lineup ironed out.
“It’s still ongoing, and I think that is scary, but it’s exciting that I can’t put my finger on the pulse right now to say, ‘This would be the starting 11 if we were to play tomorrow,’” she said. “The girls have given so much throughout preseason that they’re all putting themselves in the picture from a starting spot, which is nice.”
Start time is set for 5:30 p.m. MT and the game can be viewed on KMYU or the KSL OTT app. It can be listened to on Rewind 100.7 FM.
NOTES: Midfielder Mandy Laddish has been added to the NWSL’s official injury report for this week because of a right hip contusion, joining forward Amy Rodriguez (right knee) and defender Alex Arlitt (left knee)...the club announced Friday that the USWNT will play China at Rio Tinto Stadium on June 7 in an international friendly. It will mark the fifth such competition the USWNT has played at the venue since it opened in 2008. Tickets go on sale to the public April 17. On Thursday, Sauerbrunn and O'Hara were selected as part of the 22-player group who will play a pair of friendlies against Mexico on Apr. 5 and Apr. 8.