Utah Royals FC faced the Washington Spirit for the second time this season. The first time being the home opener that ended with The Royals winning with a final score of 1-0. Unfortunately, this match was a reminder that past isn’t precedent and the Royals were unable to walk away nearly as triumphant.
Not only was this the second time seeing Washington, it was the first time with a roster fully lacking players called up to the national team as Katie Bowen finally departed to meet up with the New Zealand national team. Also missing was Lo’eau LaBonta after the NWSL Disciplinary Committee handed down a two-match suspension for the kick out during the match against the Orlando Pride last week. However, this did leave openings for a few players to see their first starts for the Royals. Including last weeks goal scorer Makenzy Doniak and Gaby Vincent.
Both teams started the match on seemingly equal footing. The Utah Royals were able to put together a promising attack that ended in a corner kick by the third minute. Washington Spirit quickly turned around with their own attack ending in a set piece in the 8th minute. It didn’t take long for the difference in approaches to become very apparent.
As the Spirit continued to press high and try to maintain possession, the Royals seemed to be unsure of what speed the team was playing at. From the 19th minute, midfielder Vero Boquete seemed to be playing at a different pace than the rest of her side. Quickly out running both forwards to the 18-yard box and setting up a three-on-two situation that ended with Katie Stengel being found offside. Vero being on pace or ahead of the attacking players was a theme that continued to play out through the rest of the evening.
It only took 23 minutes for Ashley Hatch to put a shot in the back of the net. She managed to do this while 18 yards away and surrounded by four Utah Royals defenders with a quick hit to the far post through the space she was provided. This early concession seemed to even further slow the pace of the Utah Royals players and that pace carried them into the end of the first half of play.
The second half started on a sour note as the Royals were called for a violation of Law 8 of the Laws of the Game on the kickoff. The player taking the kickoff is not allowed to make a second touch on the ball until another player has touched the ball. This weird giveaway of a free kick reset the tone going into the second half of the match.
Through the second half of the match, the Royals seemed to be playing on their back foot and came dangerously close to going down a center back after an awkward collision in the 50’ minute caused Sam Johnson to have to come out and receive treatment. Fortunately, the defender was able to come back on and play through the rest of the match and will hopefully be able to carry on through out this World Cup window.
Substitutions through the early part of the second half mostly saw changes to the midfield. Erika Tymrak came on for Makenzy Doniak in the 59’ and Mallory Weber came on for Mandy Laddish in the 68’.
The substitutions seemed to provide some speed, but the Spirit continued to press throughout the half and in the 70th minute were able to add another goal to their tally as an Ashley Hatch shot went off the near post and bounced back to waiting foot of Dorian Bailey.
After the goal, Alexa Newfield came on for Katie Stengel, but it didn’t prove to be enough to change the tide of the game. Leaving an ending score of 2-0 when the referee blew his whistle after four minutes of stoppage time. Ultimately, breaking the tie for first place in the NWSL and putting the Washington Spirit cleanly in the lead.
The Utah Royals face Sky Blue FC at home on June 15th.