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Utah Royals fall 2-0 to Reign FC during Sam Johnson farewell match

Johnson extended her career to help Utah find a suitable replacement before hanging up her boots

The Utah Royals were hoping to send veteran defender Sam Johnson off with a win, but they couldn’t hold off Reign FC.

Jess Fishlock scored in the 30th minuted and Ifeoma Onumonu added her first NWSL career goal in the 35th to give the Reign (4-1-5, 17 points) a lead the Royals (5-3-2, 17 points) could not overcome Friday night.

It was a bittersweet farewell for Johnson, who had long planned to retire on this date after helping Utah develop a viable replacement during the season. Johnson has played during all seven NWSL seasons, spending the past two with the Royals.

“Sam and I had a conversation in preseason, where she decided that she wanted to look at something different than football. So, we went out to try and find a replacement for her in preseason. To give her a lot of credit, we just couldn’t find someone of her caliber in such short notice,” Royals coach Laura Harvey said. “So, three weeks on from our first conversation, we sat down again, and she said, ‘I’m not going to leave this team in the lurch. I’m going to make sure that you have me until you don’t need me.’ And we agreed on this game.

“This is Sam Johnson’s last game. Sam and I had a conversation in preseason, where she decided that she wanted to look at something different than football. So, we went out to try and find a replacement for her in preseason. To give her a lot of credit, we just couldn’t find someone of her caliber in such short notice. So, three weeks on from our first conversation, we sat down again, and she said, ‘I’m not going to leave this team in the lurch. I’m going to make sure that you have me until you don’t need me.’ And we agreed on this game. So, the players have known for two months, maybe. We kept it pretty quiet, which was good until today. And I want to go on record to say that she didn’t have to do that, she could have walked away because she wanted to. Mentally she felt like it was the right time, but she stuck with it, she stuck with us.

“… And I want to go on record to say that she didn’t have to do that, she could have walked away because she wanted to. Mentally she felt like it was the right time, but she stuck with it, she stuck with us. I think she’s been one of our most consistent players throughout this really tough period without our [World Cup] players. We want to thank her for that and we wish her all the best.”

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