March 24, 2018 - Orlando City Stadium
Utah Royals FC kicked off their inaugural season with the club’s first match-up against Orlando Pride. Midfielder Gunny Jónsdóttir scored Utah’s first goal in the third minute to give the Royals an advantage early in the game.
The lead would only last until the 21st minute, as Orlando was awarded a PK after a controversial handball against Becky Sauerbrunn. The handball in question came after a shot from Orlando’s Dani Weatherfold actually hit Sauerbrunn in the face. Though Laura Harvey and the Royals protested the call, the referee would not be convinced to reverse her position. Brazilian international Marta then took the PK, sending a left-footed shot inside the right post, tying the match 1-1. Goalkeeper Abby Smith guessed right, but she was unable to stop the PK.
The rest of the match was a series of back-and-forth between Orlando and Utah, but neither team would break the deadlock. Utah Royals FC earned the draw on their inaugural match.
How Utah Royals FC Scored
Diana Matheson, playing in her first NWSL match since 2016 after recovering from an ACL tear, sent a left-footed cross to the 18 after a series of passes with defender Kelley O’Hara and midfielder Desiree Scott. The pass found Jónsdóttir who was able to get past the Orlando defense and slid into the ball with her right foot to send it in for the goal, beating goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.
The goal would earn Jónsdóttir NWSL Goal of the Week and praise from the NWSL for her Week 1 performance. Jónsdóttir led the team in shots, key passes, passes in the attacking half, duels, and fouls won.
How They Lined Up
Utah Royals FC (4-3-3): Abby Smith; Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Corsie, Becky Sauerbrunn (C), Becca Moros; Desiree Scott, Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir, Katie Bowen; Diana Matheson (Taylor Lytle 64’), Brittany Ratcliffe (Sydney Miramontez 81’), Elise Thorsnes (Katie Stengel 62’). Subs not used: Nicole Barnhart, Erika Tymrak, Brooke Elby, Lo’eau LaBonta.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3): Ashlyn Harris (C); Carson Pickett, Shelina Zadorsky, Ali Krieger, Poliana (Monica Hickmann Alves 66’); Toni Pressley (Rachel Hill 73’), Christine Nairn, Dani Weatherholt; Sydney Leroux, Marta, Alex Morgan (Chioma Ubogagu 46’). Subs not used: Kristen Edmonds, Danica Evans, Rachel Hill, Haley Kopmeyer, Lotta Okvist.
What They Said
Utah Royals HC Laura Harvey on handball call on Becky Sauerbrunn: "I don't want to get fined, but it's hard to come here and not come away with 3 points when you concede the penalty that we did. What I don't get is how the linesman, watches the replay and still gives it."#ORLvUTA— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) March 25, 2018
*Kelley O’Hara & Becky Sauerbrunn post-game reaction courtesy of RSL.
Utah Royals FC tied Houston Dash (0-0), lost to Chicago Red Stars (1-0) in their inaugural home opener in front of 19,203 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium, and tied North Carolina Courage (2-2) and Portland Thorns FC (1-1) before earning their first victory versus Washington Spirit (2-0) on Saturday, May 5.
Orlando Pride continued with losses to Washington Spirit (2-0) and Portland Thorns FC (1-2) before recording their first victory against Houston Dash (1-0). Since then, Orlando has extended their unbeaten streak to three with a draw against Seattle Reign (1-1) and a road win versus Chicago Red Stars (2-0).
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