Utah and North Carolina tie 0-0
Utah Royals FC are 1-0-2 vs. the Courage this season
Utah Royals FC has gone 1-0-2 vs. the North Carolina Courage in the 2018 regular season. (Photo credit: Rob Gray/isiphotos.com)
Utah Royals FC has gone 1-0-2 vs. the North Carolina Courage in the 2018 regular season. (Photo credit: Rob Gray/isiphotos.com)

Utah Royals FC tied the North Carolina Courage 0-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, on Friday night, to finish out the season series between the two teams. Utah is the only team to not to lose to North Carolina this season, finishing 1-0-2 against the team at the top of the table.

The Courage could’ve clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs with a win tonight, and possibly the NWSL Shield if Seattle Reign FC lost or drew tomorrow — but that’s all on hold until the international break is over and the team is back in action on August 5. They’re now 14-1-4 (46 points) and still well clear of their nearest competitors.

Utah Royals FC are now 5-6-7 with 22 points following the draw, but six points back from a playoff spot.

Last month, Utah Royals FC dealt the Courage their only loss of the season, 1-0 on a late, stoppage time stunner from Brittany Ratcliffe. This time around, it was a defensive battle between the two sides.

Both teams were missing a number of key starters due to U.S. women’s national team training camp ahead of next week’s Tournament of Nations. For North Carolina, McCall Zerboni, Crystal Dunn, Merritt Mathias, Jaelene Hinkle, Abby Dahlkemper and Sam Mewis were all out. For Utah, Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy Rodriguez and Christen Press missed the match.

Utah Royals FC made two key defensive plays to preserve the draw. The first, a save from Nicole Barnhart in the sixth minute. Barnhart was starting in place of Abby Smith, who missed the game with a concussion. The play started with a North Carolina corner kick, that was headed out wide in the direction of Debinha. The midfielder then served the ball back into the mix for Abby Erceg to head on frame. Barnhart was going the other way, but then dove back to her right to palm the ball out of danger.

Barnhart make four saves on the night to earn the clean sheet.

In the 88th minute, Rachel Corsie came through with a sliding block on Lynn Williams to keep North Carolina off the scoreboard. After a giveaway in midfield by Utah, North Carolina quickly sprung forward on the counterattack. Heather O’Reilly, starting at right back, played a long through ball to Williams, who was in a full sprint with lots of room to run. Williams dribbled into the box, but Corsie raced back from the other side of the field to slide in and clear the ball out just as Williams took her shot.

Corsie finished the evening with four clearances, two interceptions and one block.

The game saw no shortage of key defensive plays throughout, with both sides making near back-to-back stops in the first half.

First, Utah defender Becca Moros stepped up to steal the ball away from Williams on a North Carolina opportunity. Moros finished the match with a game-high 97 touches, won nine of her 10 duels and made two interceptions.

Then, Courage defender Meredith Speck stepped up to calmly clear the ball away on a quick Utah Royals FC chance. Speck started at left back for the Courage in the game.

Courage defender Kaleigh Kurtz, starting at centerback in place of Dahlkemper, made a game-high seven clearances.

Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland needed just one save to record her fifth clean sheet of the season and North Carolina’s ninth overall.

Utah Royals FC dominated the Courage in possession 59.4% to 40.6% — but North Carolina led in total shots by a large margin of 21-5. The Courage put just four on frame to Utah’s one.

The draw for the Courage breaks a five-game winning streak that began following their loss to Utah last month, but they are still unbeaten in their last six games. Utah Royals FC are 0-3-1 in their last four games and have won just one of their last seven games since the win over North Carolina.

The Courage will get another shot to clinch the a home playoff game, and possibly the NWSL Shield on Sunday, August 5, when they host Portland Thorns FC. Utah Royals FC will also be in action on August 5, on the road at the Houston Dash.




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