SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The return of the Royals World Cup players sparked the offense, but it wasn’t enough to earn a victory at home.
Rachel Corsie and Christen Press both scored goals, as the Utah Royals settled for a 2-2 draw against the first place Portland Thorns Friday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The two goal snapped a 2-game scoreless streak for the Royals (5-4-3), who stayed in 5th place in the NWSL standings.
This was the first time the Royals played since the second game of the season with a complete team. Six players had left to play in the World Cup in France, which concluded on July 7th.
“It was an amazing feeling to be back in the stadium,” said Press, who scored a goal in the World Cup semifinals for the U.S. against England. “We had such an amazing group of Americans that traveled over [to the World Cup], and I know that some of them are from Salt Lake and they’re here tonight, but there’s nothing like playing in front of your own home crowd. It was really special. I felt so much joy and pride playing in this stadium and for this team. I’m happy to be back.”
“Honestly, the support tonight was unbelievable,” said Royals and USWNT defender Becky Sauerbrunn. So Thank you guys so much for coming here and supporting us. We appreciate it so much credit to Portland that was quite a game a nice game to get back a lot of drama. So hopefully everyone had a lot of fun, wish we could have won it at the end there but we’ll take away a point.”
The Thorns jumped out to an early lead when in the 9th minute Canadian international Christine Sinclair fired a driven volley into the top corner of goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart net to give the visitors the early lead. Royals FC equalized in the 43rd minute when Press megged her defender before slotting a shot past Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch to send the match to halftime knotted at 1-1.
Throughout the second half, URFC played the aggressor as it went in search of its second goal. Katie Stengel nearly put the hosts in front in the early stages of the second half, but Thorns FC goalkeeper Adrianna Franch did well to save the shot low to her right side in the 59th minute. In the dying moments of the match, Thorns FC jumped ahead through Sauerbrunn, when the deflected shot from Portland found its way into the back of the net in the 87th minute. Just three minutes later, Corsie’s sliding effort drew URFC level at 2-2 on a cross from Kelley O’Hara, who was playing her first game since returning from France with a World Cup title.
Utah Royals FC continued the pressure to the very end, forcing Franch to make two spectacular stoppage-time saves, including one with her face to keep the match level at the final whistle.
“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks since the World Cup, but I’m happy to be back in Utah with this team,” O’Hara said. “We battled hard tonight and unfortunately we didn’t get the win but we came out with a point so I’m happy about that, I guess.”
The Royals next host North Carolina Saturday, July 27th at 8:00 p.m.