Utah Royals FC earn first road win, top Sky Blue 2-1
Diana Matheson scored for Utah
Utah Royals FC's Diana Matheson scored in the third minute. (Photo credit: Howard C. Smith/isiphotos.com)
Utah Royals FC's Diana Matheson scored in the third minute. (Photo credit: Howard C. Smith/isiphotos.com)

Utah Royals FC earned their first win on the road beating Sky Blue FC 2-1 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday night.

Until the 85th minute, the game was level with both teams getting one in the back of the net in the first half.  Utah Royals FC got on the board first thanks to a Diana Matheson goal in the third minute. And then the home team equalized just minutes later with a goal from forward Shea Groom in the tenth minute. In the 85th minute, Utah took the lead after an own goal from Sky Blue FC defender Mandy Freeman.

Sky Blue FC remains in pursuit of their first win of the year at 0-8-1 overall, and Utah Royals FC are now 3-2-5 in league play. Sky Blue FC, now nine games without a win, have also not led in the game for 810 minutes of league play. Sky Blue will enter their next match with just one point, second only to the 2013 Seattle Reign for the longest winless start to a season (11 games) and tied with the 2013 Reign for the fewest points heading into game nine (1 point).

Several players from both Sky Blue and Utah were recently called up for national team duty ahead of the upcoming June friendlies for the U.S. women’s national team and missed this weekend’s NWSL game. From Utah, goalkeeper Abby Smith, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, and forward Amy Rodriguez were called up. For Sky Blue, forward Savannah McCaskill and midfielder Carli Lloyd got the nod.

This meant both sides had to mix up their starting lineups and for Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey called on longtime NWSL goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to start in net. Barnhart earned the win in her 109th NWSL appearance and finished with two saves on the night.

The visitors got on the scoreboard just three minutes into the game when Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir won the ball in the midfield and eventually got a service in behind the Sky Blue backline to find Matheson crashing far post. Matheson slid and scored to earn her second goal of the season and put her side up 1-0. Matheson now has two goals and one assist on the year. She finished the game with two shots.

Sky Blue FC got one back just minutes later, when defender Amanda Frisbie played the ball up the line to forward Katie Johnson. Johnson used her pace to beat Utah’s last line of defense and slotted it back to Groom who was able to finish it one-time for the big equalizer in the 10th minute. This was Groom’s first goal for Sky Blue. She finished the game with three shots.

Utah’s best chance to take the lead came just before the break in the 40th minute when midfielder Desiree Scott poked the ball away from Sky Blue just above the box. Scott’s win found the feet of Utah forward Katie Stengel who struck it one-time. Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made the initial save, but the ball bobbled out of her hands into the feet of forward Katrina Gorry. Gorry dropped the ball back to Corsie, but Corsie’s shot went right into the hands of Sheridan.

In the second half, Sky Blue FC midfielder Raquel Rodriguez entered the game and instantaneously added a boost to the home team’s attack. She finished the game with a 84.6% passing accuracy rate, for the highest on her team. In the 54th minute, Sky Blue defender Rebekah Stott found Johnson at the top of the box and Johnson flicked it on to midfielder Madison Tiernan. Tiernan got off a huge strike that cruised just over the crossbar.

In the 61st minute Utah Royals FC had a nice build-up in the midfield that bounced around, with Scott controlling it time and time again for her team. Eventually, Gorry had an open shot and got one off that forced Sheridan to make a diving save to the far right post. Scott finished the night with a game-high 90.3% passing accuracy rate in 33 passes and also made three tackles and two interceptions in the win.

The game was later sealed in the 85th minute when Jónsdóttir exposed Sky Blue FC down the flank and served the ball across the box to force an own goal from Sky Blue’s Mandy Freeman who was running towards her own goal.

Sky Blue finished the game with nine shots to Utah’s seven, however the visitors held the advantage in possession with 55% to Sky Blue’s 45%.

Utah will continue their road trip in Week 11 when they visit the North Carolina Courage on June 16 after the FIFA break. Sky Blue will look to for their first win when they host the Washington Spirit on Friday, June 8 just before the break. 

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