On another beautiful late spring evening in Utah, Real Salt Lake Women bounced back from the disappointment of last week’s loss to defeat Calgary Foothills WFC by the score of 3-0.
After a frustrating first game filled with blocked shots and unlucky giveaways, RSLW looked much sharper in controlling possession and maintaining high pressure on the visitors. It paid off early when midfielder Chansi Crompton took aim at the goal in the 5th minute, firing off a curler from the edge of the penalty area that fooled almost every player on the pitch and found its way into the right side netting for a 1-0 lead.
RSLW kept the pressure high over the next 10 minutes and twice nearly saw the advantage double as forward Colette Smith was played through on goal and got off two shots that Calgary keeper Sarah Dilling was able to stay in front of. The game settled down after that with RSLW keeping a lot of the possession, but not finding the final passes to threaten the goal. Calgary took advantage of that to force RSLW keeper Becca Ritchie into a save in the 34th minute, and again in the 37th where their pressure earned a corner, though their resulting shot went high for a goal kick.
RSLW would get that second goal in the 40th minute after Smith won the ball in the midfield and pressed hard up the left side. She found Hayley Skolmoski making the run towards the box, and her ground cross into the box found the feet of Wes Hamblin who pushed it past Dilling to make it 2-0. Hamblin made a nice cross during the first half stoppage time that nearly returned the favor to Skolmoski at the left post for a header, but the cross was just a few inches too high.
Early in the second half RSLW had a good chance at 3-0, with Smith and Skolmoski pressing the Calgary defense again before Hayley’s shot forced Dilling into a diving save that rolled behind her for a few inches before she collected it. The Foothills turned that into a chance of their own, immediately counter-attacking and challenging Ritchie into a fine save of her own. There was an interesting moment in the 60th minute when a camera drone burst into the air from just below the stands, startling the crowd a little.
In the 68th minute, a lobbed pass fell just in front of Smith and Calgary defender Marie-Sandra Ujeneza, and after Smith turned to win the ball and race towards the goal, Ujeneza grabbed a handful of jersey to earn a yellow card and a free kick for RSLW in a dangerous spot. Crompton and Smith stood over the ball, with Smith eventually blasting a shot that Dilling made a fingertip save on to push it over the bar, with the resulting corner coming to nothing for the hosts.
RSLW would get their final tally in the 76th minute when University of Utah defender Holly Daguirda got a nice pass on the right side, pushed the ball deep into the attacking third, then slid a perfect ball through the Calgary defense to her college teammate Skolmoski who corralled the ball, turned, and finished past Dilling to make it 3-0. The match finished with a hard shot from Calgary that Ritchie had to force over the bar to preserve the shutout, with the following corner cleared from danger.
It was a much more satisfying performance, and a necessary win in a short season to keep pace in the difficult West Conference. RSLW faces a tough test next weekend as they travel to the Los Angeles area for a Saturday/Sunday double that counts as half of their away matches for the season. Saturday’s return leg vs. So Cal Crush will be important to win, and is followed by Sunday’s match against Santa Clarita Blue Heat who won their first match 4-0. RSL’s players will be tasked with finding the energy to play a second game in two days against a team that has had 8 days to rest, but the ladies in Claret-and-Cobalt won two matches in Colorado under similar circumstances last season.