Utah Royals FC flew to the east coast to take on the North Carolina Courage in their second away trip of the 2019 campaign. With both teams missing a plethora of international players, the historic battles from last year, and the Courage coming off their first multi-goal defeat since 2017 we knew in a word this game would be unpredictable.
Nicole Barnhart got her fifth start in a row while Rebecca Moros rejoined the backline after returning from injury for the first time this season pairing with Samantha Johnson and soon to be World Cup departures Rachel Corsie and Katie Bowen. Stacked in the midfield was a group of Gunny Jónsdóttir, Mandy Laddish, Lo LaBonta and Verónica Boquete. Katie Stengel and Amy Rodriguez constituted the front core pairing. - In essence the same lineup that we saw last week with the exception of Becca Moros swapping a starting position with Michelle Maemone.
Utah struck first in the 7th minute as Katie Stengel set up a beautiful side flick to Vero Boquete who put a tricky through ball for Amy Rodriguez to run into and put in the back of the net.
Where every little touch counts. pic.twitter.com/EyDWVrRKWy— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) May 19, 2019
The minutes following the goal were met by an onslaught of attacking movement from the Courage including winning several free kicks as well as a few shots from the run of play which grazed over the crossbar.
In the 30th minute Sam Johnson went down with what first appeared to be an injury, but turned out to only be a leg cramp which was aptly interweaved with a hydration break. The break served not only to provide a minor reset physically, but it also put Laura Harvey in a position to adjust things tactically as was evident by a slew of minor Royal possession in the final third and a better breaking up of the Carolina attack. In the 36th minute Nicole Barnhart made an acrobatic save, albeit in a collision with Kristen Hamilton and Rachel Corsie to deny a goal. Kristen looked to be in bad shape and left the field but fortunately would return.
In the 40th minute Amy Rodriguez picked up a yellow card for likely cummulative actions on a foul which didn’t seem overly agressive or yellow card worthy.
At halftime it became evident that Sam Johnson’s knick was more complicated than a simple stretch-out and the 21 year old rookie Gaby Vincent out of Louisville came on to make her NWSL debut.
In the 58th minute the Courage would make their first change swapping Kristen Hamilton for the Swede, Julia Spetsmark.
The beginnings of the second half for the royals could largely be defined as a defense trying to play out of the back, but having it effectively shutdown by a high Carolina press. Fortunately for Utah a lackluster counter was answered by an organized defense and a failure to finish offensively.
In the 69th minute the Courage would make their second sub bringing in Elizabeth Eddy in exchange for Cari Roccaro.
Immediately after the waterbreak which followed the substitution, Nicole Barnhart won an incredible 1 on 1 battle against Lynn Williams. It was after that save that Laura Harvey would make her second change swapping Becca Moros for the former North Carolina Courage player Makenzy Doniak.
In the 78th minute the gamble to give Elizabeth Eddy her first minutes of the campaign on the part of North Carolina would pay off as Debinha flicked the ball wide center and Eddy rocketed it into the far side of the net.
In the 82nd minute the recent pickup off the waiver wire Mallory Weber would make her Royals debut and Mandy Laddish would come off. Proving, that in typical Laura Harvey fashion, a draw would not be enough and the win worth going for.
All in all, the Utah Royals would pick up a respectable point on the road remaining undefeated all time against last years league and cup winners.
The next match will be at Rio Tinto on the 25th of May as Utah Royals FC welcome the Orlando Pride.