It was a match with major playoff implications. Utah Royals FC traveled to Tacoma, Washington for the second time in a week to make up a postponed game. Coming off a couple of losses, URFC needed a win to continue staying in the playoffs. Though a loss would not completely eliminate them from contention, a loss would put them in 5th place. It’s believed that the winner of this one would likely make the playoffs.
Laura Harvey made a major change to the line up, benching Katie Bowen and bringing in Gunny Jonsdottir in her place in the backline. The bold move could cement a great experiment, or greatly backfire. Nonetheless, the change gave the Utah backline a new identity.
The game started with Utah playing with urgency. In the 8th minute, after winning a free kick, Katie Stengel’s right footed shot from outside the box was saved by goalkeeper Casey Murphy. Two minutes later, Christen Press missed a header, sending it right of the goal. Utah continued their attack the next few minutes. Lo’eau LaBonta’s shot in the 18th minute was saved by Murphy.
In the 27’ Reign FC’s Darian Jenkins had an opportunity to give the Tacoma-based team the lead, but Barnie, despite a couple of near mistakes earlier, came up clutch to deny the Reign the lead.
Despite a couple of attempts ten minutes later by Christen Press, it was Reign FC who broke through and took the lead in the 40th minute as Bethany Balcer was able to beat Mallory Weber to the ball. Balcer took a right-footed shot from an angle to make it 1-0 going into halftime.
The second half started with Utah again playing with the need for a goal. In the 46’, LaBonta’s left-footed shot was saved. In the 52’, goalscorer Balcer left the game, allowing for Ifeoma Onumonu to sub in. Immediately after, a save by Barnhart in the 53’ kept the game at 1-0.
Utah and Reign FC went back and forth until the 67’ minute when Utah’s pressure all game in the final third finally paid off. A foul by Allie Long on LaBonta gave Utah a set piece opportunity. A freek kick by Vero Boquete sent the ball into the box where Katie Stengel sent a right-footed shot from the center of the box right into the goal. The goal gave the match a 1-1 tied score, keeping Utah’s playoff hopes alive.
As the game went on, the physicality began to show as both teams fought to extend beyond the draw. A bad foul on Boquete resulted in a yellow card for Kristen McNabb in the 77th minute. LaBonta committed her own foul two minutes later.
As Reign FC made their second substitution for the night, Rumi Utsugi for Allie Long, Katie Bowen subbed in for Katie Stengel in the 84th minute. That substitution should have given Utah momentum, instead, it led to Reign FC scoring their second goal as Jodie Taylor was left unmarked in the box where she was able to send it into the bottom left corner for the lead.
Utah’s tying goal was short-lived as Reign FC closed out the game with three points, putting Utah’s chances at making the playoffs in danger. URFC