“Dedication To Each Other” - A phrase that is printed on their merchandise, and embedded in the hearts and minds of each player.
While Real Salt Lake has long lived under the mantra of “The Team is the Star”, the women’s team has taken it a step further, building a culture of dedication and strength that carries them to success both on and off the pitch. It was on full display at Clyde Field at UVU on Saturday night as Real Salt Lake Women (3-2-0, 9 pts) earned a 4-2 comeback victory over the visiting Houston Aces.
The match had a back-and-forth start, with both teams looking to string together passes and contend with the wind that blew from north to south the whole match. Houston used their speed up the left side through Sarah Bonney to push into the attacking third, looking to find service to Diandra Aliaga and Colombian WNT star Tatiana Ariza, though the RSLW defense would hold strong through the first 25 minutes.
The hosts would get their breakthrough in the 26th minute, with Hailey Skolmoski sending a fine pass through to Sara Callister on the right wing, who turned past her defender and slid a centering ball to Colette Smith inside the six yard box for a quick turn and shot that beat Houston keeper Stefany Cardoso. RSLW kept the pressure on for the rest of the first half, but were unable to double their lead, while Houston remained dangerous, forcing a save from RSLW keeper Becca Ritchie on a free kick before finally getting one past her on a 45th minute corner. The initial cross wasn’t cleared, and defender Isabella Echeverri pushed it home to equalize.
The home side started the second half determined, with just one change to the lineup seeing 16-year-old Alta High star Brecken Mozingo come in at left back, replacing Sarah Duncan. In the 48th minute, RSLW had a three minute stretch that saw them place three excellent shots on or near goal. Callister had her shot saved after a nice pass from Skolmoski, Hailey herself hit a shot just inches over the bar, and Smith took a free kick that went left of the upright. Houston picked up their intensity in the minutes that followed, and saw their efforts rewarded in the 67th minute when they broke down the left side, and finally got Tatiana Ariza through on the right for an open shot that she buried past Ritchie to take the lead.
With just over 20 minutes left to play, RSLW had to dig deep and find at least a draw, and nearly got the levelling goal when Smith took a pass and used some fancy dribbling to get around the defense and Cardoso, only to see her shot cleared away by an Aces defender. The continued pressure would earn RSLW a corner in the 74th minute, which Callister struck well and found the head of Katie Rogers who nodded past Cardoso to equalize at 2-2. The home side would get a great look at going ahead in the 82nd when Mozingo got forward and had a good look from outside the box, but her shot hit the crossbar and nobody in the home white kits could get on the ball.
Another corner for RSLW in the 90th minute was taken by Chansi Crompton, and Rogers again met the ball first and headed home her second of the match, and the game-winner. The final tally came during stoppage time when Mozingo fed substitute forward Jess Vanderveur, whose chipped shot cleared Cardoso and trickled inside the right post.
Though far from a perfect performance, it took a total team effort to stay composed and continue to fight and support each other to earn the win. After taking the early lead, then falling behind, the whole team showed tremendous dedication to executing and making the plays necessary to be in a chance to score, and took full advantage of the opportunities earned. The win keeps them level on points with Santa Clarita, who is without a loss or a goal allowed through their first three matches. An important trip to Calgary is up next for RSLW, who needs to score a big road win before hosting Santa Clarita in two weeks.