SANDY, Utah — Third time’s the charm wasn’t exactly the case for the Utah Royals FC (7-7-7) Saturday.
Competing in its third match in eight days, URFC looked gassed for much of the night and the Seattle Reign (10-4-6 ) used that to its advantage. Seattle needed only a single goal to get three points on the road in Rio Tinto Stadium, taking down the Royals 1-0.
Utah coach Laura Harvey thought her team was playing catch up until the final minutes.
“We had a game plan against them and we didn’t execute it until late in the game, when we started to create more opportunities and turn them a little bit more,” Harvey said. “The three games a week is always really tough, especially when your opponent doesn’t have that. But I felt the girls kept working until the very end and I felt quality in the final third.”
Last weekend, the Royals beat the Houston Dash on the road and on Wednesday night they got another win against the Washington Spirit. With the temperature in the low 90s throughout the game, in addition to the poor air quality, hydration breaks were given to the teams intermittently.
URFC goalie Abby Smith, who hadn’t competed since July 14 because of an injury, made a couple of big saves in the first 20 minutes. Though she wasn’t able to keep a clean sheet, she finished the match with five saves.
A botched attempt to clear the ball in the 41st minute opened a good opportunity for Diana Matheson, but Seattle recovered and forced Matheson to the sideline, where she eventually kicked the ball out of bounds. In the 43rd minute, Christen Press came close to scoring with a right-footed strike to the left side of the goal, but Seattle goalie Lydia Williams dove just in time to get her hands on the ball.
Seattle was firing on all cylinders to open up the second half. Thanks to a cross from Megan Oyster on the right side of the field, Jessica Fishlock scored the game’s first and only goal by virtue of a close-range header in the 48th minute. Seattle created some more opportunities, but Fishlock’s goal was good enough for three points.
In the 86th minute, Press looked to score the equalizer, and she had a great strike on goal from outside of the box, but Williams jumped high into the air to hail the ball down. Williams ended the match with three saves.
One of the more memorable moments of the match came when officials awarded a free kick to Seattle after Megan Rapinoe fell to the ground. Rebecca Moros thought Rapinoe fell on her own, so she also fell to the floor very dramatically. She was given a yellow card for her reaction, but the announced 8,740 fans appreciated her pettiness, though they did not appreciate the punishment.
Press had one last good look in stoppage time, but her shot was just wide left. With a couple of late opportunities, Harvey was disappointed her players couldn’t kick it into high gear earlier rather than later.
“My frustration is the game plan we had we didn’t execute it until the final five minutes,” Harvey said. “If we had done it previously, we would have caused more problems, but everything was in front of them.”
The Royals will be on the road next weekend in New Jersey playing against Sky Blue FC on Saturday. Aug. 18 at 4:30 p.m. MT.
“We have three more games this season and we need three wins,” Press said. “So it’s looking forward and in terms of performance, what we take is making sure our team is efficient and effective because at the end of the day it’s about getting the points.”