Utah Royals FC hosted league-leading North Carolina Courage in the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams. It was a game where a total of nine U.S. Women’s National Team members were missing due to the start of training camp in Kansas City.
It was also a game of significance for both teams. For Utah, after losing three games in a row, every game is now valuable, especially as five other teams are in the post-season chase. For North Carolina, a win would secure home-field playoff game and should Seattle lose in their game tomorrow, the Courage would win the NWSL Shield, the award for the season’s best record.
With Amy Rodriguez, Christen Press, and Becky Sauerbrunn away with the national team, the lineup looked different from previous games, with Harvey being able to turn to her bench against the league’s number one team.
The Royals maintained 59% of possession in the first half and stopped the Courage attack from taking the lead. Nicole Barnhart, who made her second start and third overall appearance of the season, made a crucial save in the 5th minute, keeping North Carolina from taking the early lead.
Despite many chances that North Carolina hoped to capitalize on and the lack of scoring opportunities for the Royals, the Utah backline was on guard and kept the game 0-0 going into halftime.
A return to the second half gave the Royals more chances. They appeared more confident and created opportunities to break the deadlock. But, like Utah, North Carolina refused to relent and disrupted Utah’s chances and the Royals were simply not able to take advantage in the run of play.
As the game drew to a close and neither side had scored a goal for the lead, North Carolina came dangerously close to winning the game in the 88th minute after a counter-attack that saw Lynn Williams break towards the goal, but it was Rachel Corsie who found a way to track Williams and slide tackle for the save.
It was the last major play of the night, and Utah Royals FC and North Carolina Courage split the points for the second time this season. Doing so, allowed the Royals to stay in the chase for the playoffs as the last third of the season begins.