Washington Spirit face Utah Royals FC in Battle for First Place

Washington Spirit  |   May 31, 2019
Washington Spirit face Utah Royals FC in Battle for First Place Featured Image

Jordan Viener

Boyds, Md. (5/31/19) The Washington Spirit will host Utah Royals FC in an early season battle for first place at the Maryland SoccerPlex. [TICKETS]

Last week the Spirit shutout the Chicago Red Stars in an impressive 2-0 victory, securing a share of first place in the table. The Spirit have not lost a game in 41 days, the longest undefeated streak in the league.

The only team to beat the Spirit so far this year was Utah in match week two. Royals FC has had an impressive season thus far, playing disciplined defense and taking their chances on offense, but recent results have been more mixed for the first-place club. Utah’s last three games have been inconsistent, featuring a loss, tie, and win. Last week, Royals FC handled a bottom of the table Orlando FC squad away from home, winning 2-0.

It has been an awards-laden week for the Spirit, as forward Ashley Hatch was nominated for the Goal of the Week, defender Paige Nielsen won Save of the Week and keeper Aubrey Bledsoe took home her second Player of the Week award.

In addition to those awards, Bledsoe, Hatch, defender Sam Staab and midfielder Jordan DiBiasi were all named to the NWSL’s Team of the Month. The Spirit held a player in each part of the field for the team of the month with one forward, one midfielder, one defender and the keeper spot. Four players are the most the Spirit have ever had the Team of the Month since April of 2018.

Royals FC is known for their aggressive and stifling press defense. They have only allowed three goals against so far this season, good for best in the league. However, Utah’s defense has been heavily altered by recent 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup call ups. All four of Royals FC’s starting defenders in have been called up to World Cup rosters.

Royals FC’s defensive unit alone has lost: Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara (USA), Rachel Corsie (Scotland) and Katie Bowen (New Zealand). The major shakeup at the back has shown in recent results, as all three of the goals allowed by Royals FC have been in the last three games.

These defensive call ups are in addition to losing forward Christen Press (USA), and midfielder Desiree Scott (Canada) to call ups as well.

The Spirit’s only loss of the season so far has been to Royals FC 1-0, however over half of the Utah starting line up that took the field that day is now preparing to play in the upcoming World Cup. There will be a very different Utah team across the pitch tomorrow.

Kickoff at the Maryland SoccerPlex is set for 7:00 p.m. ET, with Gate D and the Fan Zone opening at 5:30 p.m. ET for all ticket-holding fans. [TICKETS]

For fans who can’t make it to the SoccerPlex, the game will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Washington Plus, in addition to streaming on Monumental Sports Network and Yahoo Sports.

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