The Utah Royals’ inaugural National Women’s Soccer League season came to end Saturday with a 2-1 home victory over the Chicago Red Stars.
The Royals (9-7-8, 35 points) just missed out on the playoffs, finishing in fifth place, two points behind the Red Stars (9-5-10, 37 points), who are in the fourth and final playoff position.
Forwards Amy Rodriguez and Katie Stengel scored in Utah’s come-from-behind win Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 11,815 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It’s how you want to end,” Royals head coach Laura Harvey said after the match. “I didn’t think in the first half we did many things well, honestly. But I felt we came out in the second half with a bit more hunger and bite about us and we moved the ball a little bit quicker. We played forward more. We didn’t just possess for the sake of it. I felt for 25 minutes we were excellent in that second half.
“And then they made some changes, brought on some subs and got a bit of momentum. But I thought the back line stayed compact and worked pretty hard. We’re happy to end the season on a high.”
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first half off a Sam Kerr goal in the 38th minute. Arin Gilliland sent a ball into the box from the left side and Sam Kerr sent a header past goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart for her 16th goal of the season.
Despite the early concession, Barnhart finished the match with seven saves. Chicago’s Alyssa Naeher had two saves.
Rodriguez and Stengel both scored second-half goals off crosses in minutes 55 and 64, respectively. Defender Katie Bowen assisted Rodriguez’ score and forward Taylor Lytle sent in the ball for Stengel’s game-winner.
“It was awesome. I was talking to Taylor before the game and I told her, ‘As soon as you come in, you’re going to put balls in and I’m ready.’ Then what do you know? She played a perfect ball. It was on a platter and I got my shoulder on it or something,” said Stengel, who finished the season as Utah’s Golden Boot winner with six goals. “It felt great to come out and get a win with this team. We worked really hard and to end the season on a high-note is really good.”
The NWSL postseason begin next week with a Saturday semifinal between the Portland Thorns and Seattle Reign, followed by a Sunday game between the Courage and Red Stars. The NWSL championship match will be held Sept. 22 at Providence Park in Portland.
Match: Utah Royals FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
Date: September 8, 2018
Venue: Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah
Weather: Partly cloudy and 86
Utah Royals FC
Chicago Red Stars 1 0 1
CHI: Sam Kerr (Arin Gilliland) 38’
UTA: Amy Rodriguez (Katie Bowen) 55’
UTA: Katie Stengel (Taylor Lytle) 64’
Utah Royals FC (4-3-3): Nicole Barnhart; Katie Bowen, Rachel Corsie, Becky Sauerbrunn, Becca Moros; Gunny Jónsdóttir, Katie Stengel, Desiree Scott; Christen Press (Erika Tymrak 85’), Amy Rodriguez (Lo’eau Labonta 79’), Kelley O’Hara (Taylor Lytle 46’).
Subs not used: Abby Smith, Samantha Johnson, Diana Matheson, Katrina Gorry.
Chicago Red Stars (4-5-1): Alyssa Naeher; Arin Gilliland, Katie Naughton, Sarah Gorden, Brooke Elby (Morgan Brian 67’); Rosie White (Danielle Colaprico 74’), Nikki Stanton (Summer Green 74’), Michele Vasconcelos, Alyssa Mautz, Yuki Nagasato; Sam Kerr.
Subs not used: Julie Ertz, Emily Boyd, Erin Yenney.
Stats Summary: UTA / CHI
Shots: 18 / 14
Shots on Goal: 7 / 8
Saves: 7 / 5
Corner Kicks: 4 / 7
Fouls: 9 / 8
Offside: 1 / 4
CHI: Arin Gilliland (Caution) 17’
CHI: Nikki Stanton (Caution) 25’
Referee: Rosenda Mendoza
Assistant Referees: Amilcar Sicaju, Gjovalin Bori
4th Official: Kali Smith