Utah Royals coach Laura Harvey and her players savored a mix of joy and relief as they finally celebrated the first win in franchise history Saturday night.
Amy Rodriguez fed Kelley O’Hara for a goal in the seventh minute and Diana Matheson added another score in 66th during the club’s 2-0 win over over the Washington Spirit (1-3-2, 5 points) in front of an announced crowd of 7,551 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I think honestly with their performance, I was really pleased,” Harvey said of the Royals (1-1-4, 7 points). “I thought we deserved it, and you could see from the players afterwards that it means a lot to get the first win.
“… Getting an early goal always helps. I think we had a little period in the start of the second half where we couldn’t get hold of the game again, but we showed our resilience and at that point and both goals coming off good defending is what I love the most. No one will ever tell me that there is no better goal than doing off defending, so with both of those goals coming off that, I think that it’s super pleasing for me.”
Rodriguez and Matheson both missed time last season due to ACL injuries, making their roles in both scores especially sweet.
Matheson started the build up toward the first goal, winning a slide tackle and then passing to Rodriguez. The forward’s ensuing pass split the defense and O’Hara gathered it as she ran down the middle of the box, quickly slotting it to the right of Washington goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
In the second half, Matheson again won a sliding tackle off a relatively poor clearance, quickly bounced up off the pitch and chipped the ball over Bledsoe to cement the Royals’ 2-0 victory.
“You could tell that we were pretty pumped out there to get the win and celebrate with the fans and probably a little bit of relief, too,” Matheson said. “We thought we were going to get the win day one here and it didn’t come. It’s obviously stretched on longer than we wanted so I’m sure there is relief in there. Right now, it’s just excitement, positive, and then we’ve got a game Wednesday so hopefully build on that. Hopefully the wins will start rolling now.”
Utah finished with five shots on goal, while Washington managed just one. Utah held a slim 52.8 to 47.2 edge in possession.
Utah’s Becky Sauerbrunn and Washington’s Taylor Smith were hit with one yellow card apiece.
The Royals host the Orlando Pride Wednesday at 9 p.m.
The Spirit play at the North Carolina Courage Saturday at 7 p.m.