RSL Women kick off 2015 with exhibition loss to Utah

March 27th, 2015 | by Shawn Blymiller
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(Photo: Shawn Blymiller)

Real Salt Lake Women opened the 2015 campaign with an exhibition game Thursday night against the University of Utah. The two teams that share a host field faced off against the on the Pac-12 Conference grass and playing to a 1-0 Utah win after a first-half stalemate between the two teams’ starters. The Utes were 8-8-4 in 2014, and the game proved to be a challenge to test a new system and defensive style of play for the RSL Women.

Utah’s Taylor Slattery scored the lone goal of the match off a through-ball 35 minutes into the second half. The California native timed her run perfectly, split the two center backs and tucked the ball under RSL goalkeeper Jamie Wilkinson to give Utah an advantage it would never surrender.

I had the opportunity to get an insight of the team objectives for this game for the RSL Women. Pregame talk was focused on defensive shape and the beginning of the line of confrontation. The line of confrontation is a set point on the field where teams decide to start pressing defensively. For example, many teams will use the halfway line or the center circle as points of reference of where the line of confrontation begins. The goal of this line is to defend in groups and create a numbers advantages to win the ball back after a dispossession.

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RSL Women fell to the Utah women’s soccer team 1-0 in a spring exhibition at Ute Soccer Field on Wednesday night. (Photo: Shawn Blymiller)

With a new coaching staff, RSL Women have adopted a new approach this season. You could see some moments where the team is still trying to figure it out, but also flashes of life as the players put the system into effect. I heard a lot of the players asking questions and discussing what was best for different scenarios — two months before the team kicks off its WPSL season, May 22 against the Austin Aces.

Utah deserves a lot of credit for creating as many chances as the team did. The Utes hit the post three times in the opening 10 minutes of the game and Mariah Elmer was flying down the wings for the Utes, creating all sorts of havoc. TopDrawerSoccer.com ranks Elmer as the No. 68 recruit in the country, and the No. 17 forward. She provided a challenge RSL’s new defensive shape, creating five chances to score beginning in the seventh minute.

Former BYU standout Collette Smith came the closest to scoring for RSL, finding space in the ninth and 16th minutes. The first chance came from a breakaway during which her final touch was cleared out of reach, and the second chance was shot pushed wide from the edge of the 18-yard box. Kira Sharp also had a chance to score in the closing stages of the game, but three Ute defenders snuffed out her near-attempt from inside the box.

Coach Jeff Ginn and his assistants Will Radar and Mark Davis are new to the Real Salt Lake Women program this year. The trio is bringing in different philosophies, and a style of play that will take time for the players to adapt. The defensive organization and team chemistry has its foundation being set. They will draw a lot from their team mantra “Dedication to Each Other.” The core of the team came together in the 2012 season, going on a postseason run to the national title match.

Give this team time to adjust to their new defensive responsibilities, where they can punish teams for losing the ball, and coupled with the attacking talent, and the players should be fun to watch. This vision was highlighted perfectly when a series of team pressure tactics allowed Kira Sharp to win the ball just 40 yards from goal and create a goal scoring opportunity with a few minutes remaining. When RSL women can do that more consistently throughout the game they are going to tuck the baby to bed, or put the ball in the back of the net.

A highlight for RSL Women was the split goalkeeper play of Jamie Wilkinson and Becca Ritchie, who saved the defense time-after-time with a flurry of saves. Most of Utah’s big chances came from outside of the 18 yard box, but both keepers did well to come off of the line when needed.

Shawn Blymiller

Shawn Blymiller

I was a guest host on a weekly podcast called "The Jockularity Show" in preparation of the World Cup. It was there that Rick Aaron from Channel 4 News coined me a "Soccer Geek". I played 2 seasons in the Premier Developmental League, 1 year with BYU and 1 year with the Ogden Outlaws. I also played soccer in college and was named to the All-conference teams. Soccer is my passion, it is in my makeup and in my DNA. I am staying involved with the beautiful game as much as I possibly can. I have done the play by play and the color commentating for games in the PDL, and the Western Athletic Conference for UVU. Follow my posts about RSL, RSL Women, Real Monarchs, UVU Soccer, BYU Soccer, and just about everything else in the footballing world. #COYG Arsenal!
Shawn Blymiller

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