Utah Royals FC and the Orlando Pride tied 1-1 on Saturday night to open their NWSL seasons in front of a crowd of 9,017 fans at Orlando City Stadium. For Utah, it’s their first-ever NWSL point.
It didn’t take long for Utah Royals FC to score their first NWSL goal.
In just the third minute, Diana Matheson, playing in her first game since the 2016 NWSL Championship, sent a long cross into the box. Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir, making her NWSL debut, slid to get her right foot on it and knocked it past Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to give Utah the 1-0 lead.
Matheson missed all of last season after tearing her ACL last January.
Orlando tied the game in the 21st minute on a penalty kick from Marta, her first of the year after scoring 13 last season.
The Pride earned the first-half penalty on a controversial call by referee Danielle Chesky. Orlando sent a ball into the box towards Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt. Weatherholt hit the ball with her right foot and the ball then appeared to hit Utah Royals FC defender Becky Sauerbrunn in the face. But Chesky called for a penalty kick and awarded a yellow card to Sauerbrunn, whose arms appeared to be raised when the ball came off Weatherholt’s foot. In written responses to questions from Luis G. Hernandez, the referee pool reporter in Orlando, Chesky said that she determined Sauerbrunn to have deliberately handled the ball. Chesky also wrote that Sauerbrunn was awarded the yellow card for deliberately handling a shot on a goal.
— NWSL (@NWSL) March 25, 2018
— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) March 25, 2018
— Becky Sauerbrunn (@beckysauerbrunn) March 25, 2018
In the 45th minute, Pride forward Alex Morgan went down after a hard head-to-head collision with Utah Royals FC Abby Smith. Morgan walked off the field, but did not return and was replaced by Chioma Ubogagu to start the second half. The Pride said after the game that she is being evaluated per the league’s concussion protocol.
The game was Sydney Leroux‘s first game with Orlando. Her best chance on goal came on a header in the 49th minute, but her effort was collected by Smith.
Both teams had limited chances in the second half, but Jónsdóttir nearly won the game for Utah deep into second half stoppage time, sending a screaming shot just over the crossbar.