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Colaprico, Red Stars spoil Utah’s home opener
A crowd of 19,203 turned out for Utah Royals FC's inaugural home game
Danielle Colaprico scores her first goal of 2018.
Danielle Colaprico scores her first goal of 2018.

Sandy, Utah — It was the inaugural home game for Utah Royals FC, but Chicago Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico spoiled the party at Rio Tinto Stadium.

 

A near-capacity crowd of 19,203 turned up for Saturday’s game in Utah with the home side in search of their first NWSL win after two draws to start the season.

 

But Colaprico’s first half goal proved the difference and handed Utah Royals FC their first NWSL loss.

 

The environment was unbelievable,” Utah captain Becky Sauerbrunn said after the game. “Kudos to Utah for showing up and supporting us. It was something special today. I feel like I was part of something special. It’s disappointing that we didn’t get the win to kind of add to the wonderful day. But to play in front of a crowd like that. … This is why we play soccer. It was wonderful.”

 

Colaprico gave the Red Stars the lead in the 27th minute. Alyssa Mautz served a ball into the box in the direction of Yuki Nagasato, playing her first game of the season after missing the first two due to a hamstring strain. Utah Royals FC defender Rachel Corsie won the header, but her clearance went to Colaprico, alone outside the top of the penalty box. Colaprico took a touch to settle the ball before swinging a right-footed volley shot into the upper right hand corner. Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith dove for it, but the ball was too high to get a hand on.

 

Her goal silenced the crowd for a few moments.

 

Afterwards we realized that the crowd was pretty quiet when we scored. It’s always a good thing when you’re away at a game and the crowd is silent,” Colaprico said.

 

I told her at halftime I’d vote for it for Goal of the Week,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “[Colaprico] has some special abilities. There’s no question about it. When we play her lower, those don’t come out. She hits that kind of stuff in training all the time with either foot. The fact that she did it in that moment, in that situation, with the crowd that was here — I’m happy for her.”

 

The goal gave the Red Stars their first lead of the season, and eventually their first win — after a 1-1 draw on the road vs. Houston and a 3-2 loss at home to Portland.

 

The loss leaves Utah still in search of their first NWSL win, as well as their second goal of the year. After scoring in the third minute of their opening game, Utah has been shutout for the last 267 minutes.

 

Utah’s offense got a big boost late in Saturday’s game with the return of a key offensive player.

 

Forward Amy Rodriguez entered the game in the 77th minute, her first game since tearing her ACL on April 16, 2017. Rodriguez subbed in to the loudest cheers of the afternoon and was involved in a few late chances as Utah tried to level the match.

 

 

Rodriguez missed all of 2016 due to the birth of her son, so she had only played in one game over the last two years before Saturday.

 

“It was quite the adrenaline rush,” Rodriguez said on Lifetime to Dalen Cuff after the game.  “I’m so excited to put on the cleats again, put on the jersey. It just feels great to be out there again.”

 

 

“It’s bittersweet because of the loss,” Rodriguez told reporters after the game.

 

Rodriguez said she was loosely targeting the home opener for her return, but didn’t know for sure she would play until she was told to start warming up in the 65th minute.

 

 

Utah’s best chance to even the score came in the 56th minute. Diana Matheson found Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir in behind the defense, forcing Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to make a kick save. The rebound bounced to Brooke Elby, but her shot went wide.

 

The play was similar to Jane Campbell’s stop on Jónsdóttir in Utah’s Week 2 draw with the Dash, which earned Campbell Save of the Week honors.

 

Chicago had a few chances of their own to add to their lead. In the 22nd minute, Nagasato’s shot beat Smith, but hit the post. Then in the 47th minute, Nagasato’s header on a corner kick was cleared off the line by Utah’s Lo’eau LaBonta.

 

Utah Royals FC will next face the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, April 21, in the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime. The Red Stars travel home for a midweek meeting with the Dash on Wednesday, April 18.

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