Utah moves to fourth place with 1-0 win over Washington
Amy Rodriguez scored in the 12th minute
Washington Spirit defender Taylor Smith (right) Utah Royals FC midfielder Rebecca Moros (Photo credit: isiphotos.com)
Washington Spirit defender Taylor Smith (right) Utah Royals FC midfielder Rebecca Moros (Photo credit: isiphotos.com)

Utah Royals FC picked up a 1-0 road win over Washington thanks to a 12th minute goal from forward Amy Rodriguez. The three points for Utah moves them to fourth place in the league standings, jumping over the Orlando Pride and Chicago Red Stars with 32 points and an 8-7-8 overall record.

Orlando and Chicago face off on Saturday night, and a win for either side will snatch back the fourth place spot from Utah. Utah now has just one more game to clinch the final playoff spot.

The Spirit are winless in 13 straight games and this loss is their ninth straight. The Spirit welcomed Tom Torres to the pitch in Week 22 as the interim head coach after former head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra was fired on Tuesday. The Spirit are out of playoff contention and sit in eighth place at 2-16-4 and 10 points.

Rodriguez scored her second goal in two games — fourth on the season — to earn her side a crucial three points. Utah forward Katie Stengel made a big switch out wide to find forward Christen Press down the right side. Press made two touches before serving the ball into the box where Rodriguez was there to get a touch on it. Rodriguez’s initial chance was saved by Spirit goalkeeper Didi Haracic, but Rodriguez followed it through and put her team up 1-0 in the 12th minute.

Haracic made just her second appearance in net for the Spirit this season and recorded 10 saves. After Rodriguez snuck one past her, Haracic came up big for her team making a diving save to deny Rodriguez her second goal of the night.

After halftime, Haracic’s job didn’t get any easier, but the keeper made a leaping punch save in the 58th minute to deny Utah another chance. Utah finished the game with 21 shots, 11 on target. The Spirit had just two shots and zero on frame.

Utah welcomed back Kelley O’Hara to the pitch for the first time in three months. O’Hara made her seventh appearance for Utah this season after working her way back from a hamstring injury.

Utah held the edge for possession at 58.9% to the Spirit’s 41.1%. Utah goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart earned her third shutout of the season. The Spirit return to action on Saturday night against Portland Thorns FC and Utah takes a break before closing out their season at home against the Chicago Red Stars on September 8.

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