Utah Royals FC went into this game needing a win. The away team saw the return Amy Rodriguez, Christen Press, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Katrina Gorry from international duty. Abby Smith recently came off the injury list and for the first time is on the bench while Nicole Barnhart started in goal. Houston Dash stood one point and one place above the Royals before the match and this game has major implications in a tight playoff race.
Both teams had a number of chances in the first half, but it was the Dash that broke through first. In the 41st minute, Latsko took a good strike that Barnhart was able to get a hand (or forearm to be exact) to, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the ball from finding the back of the net. The visitors had 67% of possession and 2 shots on goal to the Dash’s 1 shot on goal. The Royal’s also had a better passing accuracy, 84% whereas the Dash’s accuracy was 65% in the first half.
Whenever Christen Press had possession of the ball, the Houston Dash fans loudly booed her. This continued throughout the entire game and they were very vocal displaying their displeasure with the attacker. Press was famously traded from Chicago to Houston, failed to report, and instead chose to play in Sweden. Press hasn’t been clear about her reasons for not joining the Dash, but was open to coming to Utah, which she did midseason.
Utah’s first substitution came in the 56th minute when Erika Tymrak came in for Diana Matheson. Tymrak scored the only goal against the Dash in URFC’s 1-0 win on May 19th. Katie Stengel came on in the 67th minute for Katrina Gorry. Taylor Lytle was the third and final sub for URFC in the 73rd minute, seeing Amy Rodriguez come off.
Christen Press pounces on a poor back pass and was able to score in the 76th minute, tying it up 1-1. The goal seemed to revitalized the Royals and they amped up their attack after the drawing level with the home side. The Dash didn’t take the goal lightly, as they fought hard to regain the lead and created some dangerous chances.
Katie Stengel scored a beautifully chipped goal in the 83rd minute that gave Utah a 2-1 lead. Tymrak placed a perfectly weighted ball that Stengel was able to lift over Jane Campbell and into the net. However, the game didn’t feel over. Both sides, fully aware of playoff implications, fought hard for the win, but the Dash weren’t able to pull anything back. URFC had the better chances as the match drew to a close and kept their lead and gained three points, which will push them up the NWSL standings.