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Can Utah Royals FC turn their season around?

Is there still time to turn the season around?

Can Utah Royals FC turn their season around?

Utah Royals FC lost at the North Carolina Courage last night, 1-0. That makes eight games without a win, fourth loss in a row, and puts the Royals at 1-8-1 for the season, at the bottom of the NWSL standings. Against the Courage, Utah had 0 shots on target, and maintained just 37% of the possession. The positives on this one is that Utah goalkeeper Mandy Haught had a great game with 5 saves, and the defense somehow kept North Caroline to one goal. It is looking dire, though, as we look at the opponents coming up for Utah: Kansas City Current (so far unbeater), Washington Spirit (twice in one month), Portland Thorns (who keep winning again), all three which are in the top four in the standings. Should Utah continue in its current form, these games may add to the loss column, keeping the Royals farther and farther away from climbing out of the bottom.

Is there still time to turn the season around?

Possibly!

And maybe...

Continue to invest in the roster, really.

Before the season, Utah Royals FC made a big statement about going with a roster mainly made up of younger players, with the hope to develop them to be NWSL veterans in the coming years. They signed overall first draft pick, Ally Sentnor, through the 2026 season, and signed all of their other 2024 draft picks: Olivia Griffitts, Brecken Mozingo, Zoe Burns, Cristina Roque, and Lauren Flynn. And one day, years down the road, when we're all old and grey, this concept will be the most genius thing ever. But from game one vs. the Chicago Red Stars, and the 2-0 loss, it was evident that this, maybe, might not have been the best plan. Sure, Utah dominated in possession and passing accurary (82.4%, the highest that weekend), but they were shut out, and the result is what mattered in the end. And yes, of course, the Royals managed to get a big 2-1 win against the Courage in week 2, and it was major, but ever since then, it's been tough to watch this team.

The Royals are unable to convert their chances, and that may be the biggest aspect keeping Utah down. Sentnor has been Utah's rookie of the year so far, and playing beyond her years and already a versatile player, playing in the 7, 11, 10, and 9 position, but she often looks like she is the only trying to create, and she quite does not have the support and partnership. We are often watching collaboration between the players that are so new to the pro game, and they fall short of implenting the tactics. And there's also the number of penatly kicks Utah has given up, seven, that have contributed to the results, which is again a reflection of the inexperience on the field.

And maybe, last month as Utah began their winless streak, the club realized that there needed to be changes. They signed Spanish defender Ana Tejada and New Zealand midfielder Macey Leigh Fraser, both young players for sure, but coming to Utah with more professional experience. Tejada and Fraser have finally arrived in Utah and will likely be ready for the upcoming game vs. Kansas City. The Royals also traded for French midfielder Amandine Henry with Angel City for 75,000 in allocation money to stablize the midfield. And Henry has brought her experience and vision to the starting XI, but she is only one player in a roster full of young talent, and it has not resulted in the wins Utah needs.

Utah does needs to continue to invest in the roster. After 10 games, it is obvious that having a roster full of inexperienced and young players is not it, especially to compete in a highly-competive league. The secondary transfer and trade window opens on August 1st. It might be too late by then to make the playoffs, but bringing in players with 3+ years or so of NWSL experience may make a difference and allow head coach Amy Rodriguez to have a few more victories in her first NWSL coaching year.

The season is not over yet, so there is time to turn 2024 into a season to remember, but it really all depends on how much the club decides to invest in a roster full or young players who need leadership and inspiration on the field beyond their head coach.

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