SANDY, Utah — A one-goal effort from the Utah Royals FC (2-1-5) was enough to get the home team three points with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dash (1-4-4) Saturday afternoon.
Playing in front of an announced 8,323 fans in Rio Tinto Stadium, the Royals were elated to earn the win after sitting on a bunch of ties, according to forward Amy Rodriguez.
URFC had steady control of the game, holding 63.7 percent of possession. Overall, the team registered 18 shots and five of those were on target. Midfielder Erika Tymrak, given her first start of the season, proved to be an instrumental part of the Royals’ win. She scored the lone goal for her team’s second win of the season.
In the 51st minute, Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir played a ball to Tymrak, whose right-footer from the center of the box just narrowly passed Houston goalkeeper Jane Campbell and ended up being the game-winner. Tymrak missed an opportunity to score earlier in the match, but she made sure to learn from her mistakes.
“Michael Scott always says, ‘You miss 100 percent of the [shots] you don’t take,'” Tymrak said. “So I knew if I found my soft spot again, I’d have to finish it.”
Rodriguez also was in the area of Yrsa Jónsdóttir’s cross, but she realized Tymrak had the better look and made sure to get out of the way.
“I knew that Erika had a better angle than I did, so I had no problem leaving the ball for her,” Rodriguez said. “She cleanly tucked it in the corner and put us up on the board, and I was so happy for her.”
Three yellow cards were issued over the course of the game, two of which went to the Royals. Brooke Elby earned a yellow card in the ninth minute and Diana Matheson was issued one in the 55th minute, both for hard fouls.
The official handed Houston’s Rachel Daly a yellow card in the 12th minute after sending Desiree Scott to the ground. Even though she left the pitch with a few more bruises than when she started, Scott was excited about the team’s win.
“It was a battle in midfield — tackles, head balls, people getting knocked to the ground — but all worth it for those three points at home,” Scott said.
In the 16th minute, Utah was close to scoring an early goal after getting the ball in the box, but a few opportunities slid by the Royals, who looked hesitant. They seemed to wait for Houston to clear the ball rather than pressuring on attack.
In the 35th minute, Houston’s Amber Brooks committed a foul in the penalty box to set Utha up with the perfect chance to score in the first half. However, Matheson’s right-footed attempt to the bottom left of the net was no good as Campbell saved the shot.
“Diana and I just joked and I told her I’m never allowing her to take one of my PKs ever again,” Rodriguez said. “Another day she’ll put that in in the back of the net.”
The missed penalty was in the middle of a 10-minute span when the Royals were getting plenty of good opportunities in the final third, including two free kicks in addition to that penalty.
“I said to the girls at halftime, ‘I think that’s the most threatening we’ve been in any first half,’” Royals head coach Laura Harvey said. “We were a real threat today, and you can see now the chemistry of the group is building.”
The Royals will be on the road for their next four games, and Harvey hopes her team can continue the momentum it has built in the past few weeks.
“It’s not changing who we are because the thing that makes us great is that we’re hard to beat,” Rodriguez said. “Gradually in this home stretch we’ve gotten better on the ball and we’ve got to keep that momentum going away from home.”