Chemistry is everything in soccer — especially when organizing a new team. Finding players who mesh can be exceptionally difficult, especially if you are Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey, who is less than 90 days away from the NWSL official season.
In the past month, Harvey has received commitments from some big names — USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara -- as well as some veteran pros like NWSL defender Taylor Lytle, and Icelandic WNT standout Gunnhildur Jonsdottir. But the star signings don’t end there.
Today the Utah Royals FC announced commitment from two-time Olympic bronze medalist and Canadian WNT MF Desiree Scott. Scott brings a consistency to the backline that will play a crucial role in the team’s inaugural season. Her ability to make play predictable for her backline and win tackles makes her a valuable asset. There’s a reason Harvey referred to her new signee as the “glue” to any team.
Making it predictable
Part of successful team chemistry is the ability to make your opponent’s play predictable. Soccer is a game of numbers, and predicting where the players and space will be on the field can be the difference between a losing and winning season. Through her years with the national team, Scott has demonstrated discipline and patience in her defensive third. She recognizes that she does not always have to win the ball, but rather, push opponents into a second defender who can collect and distribute. Often playing in the holding mid position, Scott is able to push her opponent’s attack to one side of the field, increasing the numbers in her half. This push also means that the defense is able to shift to that one side, closing down the space. With numbers down, opponents have no choice but to take players on the dribble. With women like Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, and Lytle on the backline, I like Utah Royals FC’s chances.
Scott’s ability to make play predictable allows for the defense to keep its shape—but her movement is also key to a dangerous offense. Excited about the Scott signing, I took the time to watch the Canada WNT’s match against the U.S. in 2012 London Olympics. Focused on Scott, I noticed an interesting trend when Canada was on the attack: Scott never lost her shape as the midfield anchor player. Whether the ball switched the field, a forward attacked goal, or the team was dispossessed, Scott was always at an angle to receive the ball. Even in transition, Scott always kept her shape — allowing for an outlet pass at all times. Often, that outlet pass was the key to a counter attack.
Speaking of the counter, Scott also shows an instinctive knowledge of when to possess out of the back, and when to distribute long. Nothing makes a forward happier than playing with a midfielder who know what type of pass to play and with what texture. If you watch Scott closely, you will find that she checks her shoulder two to three seconds before receiving every pass. Her awareness contributes to her ability to play a quick ball to a forward streaking down the field, or to one-touch it back to the defensive line. Anybody who watches Scott will also notice that her distributed balls are almost always angled, perfect to receive on the instep of an attacker running towards goal. When it comes to capitalizing on a counter attack, the performance is all in the details.
I left one of Scott’s greatest strengths for last — her physical play. Known as “the destroyer”, Scott isn’t afraid to get on the ground. She baits players to take her on, and then uses her upfield foot to push the ball away. Not only is the timing key, but the angle at which she initiatives the tackle plays a role in pushing the ball away from goal. Another aspect to her dispossession is the ability to step in front of the player with the ball. As an opponent approaches, Scott uses her arm to swim in front, forcing the opponent to either foul her, or let her go. Most often, Scott is then able to turn upfield and play a teammate on the wing.
Having a solid, consistent midfielder directing traffic plays a crucial role in team chemistry. It not only organizes in-game movement and rhythm, but it gives players the freedom to be creative and take chances. Desiree Scott is a huge grab for the Utah Royals FC, and places the team one step closer towards a successful inaugural season.
Catch Desiree Scott and the rest of the Utah Royals FC squad at Rio Tinto stadium! 2018 Season tickets are now on sale via www.rsl.com/NWSL or 844.Real.Tix.