Once again Rio Tinto Stadium proved to be the Utah State soccer team's home away from home as junior midfielder Jennifer Flynn scored a goal in the 94th minute to lead USU to a 1-0 overtime win in Sandy, Utah on Friday. This was Utah State's fourth-straight win in the home of Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake.
This was Utah State's second-straight win over the Utes after beating Utah 1-0 in Logan last season. USU has captured three of the last four meetings with an equally dramatic 2-1 overtime win against the Utes at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2009. The Aggies also earned wins at Rio Tinto against Weber State in 2010 and 2011 to maintain a 4-0 record at the home of Real Salt Lake.
“We think of this as our home away from home. We really came out with the attitude of trying to protect our home field. I am not sure we were the better team today to be honest with you. We didn’t play particularly great; we didn’t play the way we have been practicing, but this team has confidence and they have fighting spirit and that is what got us through in the end," USU soccer coach Heather Cairns said. "I think we had some key players step up. Ashlyn Mulford in goal, Taryn Rose and Natalie Norris as our two center backs, Maris Hamblin and Lexie Morgan as the two defensive midfielder. We were so strong down that spine that they really saved our bacon, quite a few times. We are going to celebrate the win. It is against a rival; it is our home away from home and we are going to celebrate that but we are not satisfied. We know that we can play better soccer, and we’ve got better soccer ahead of us. We’ve got to focus on that.”
Just over three minutes into overtime, Flynn knocked a shot from 20 yards off that deflected off of a Utah defender for the only goal of the match. The ball was just out of reach of Utah netminder Cheyanne Mulcock. It was the first goal of the season for Flynn and her third career game-winning goal.
“It felt amazing. That’s the way we need to play all the time. Both teams are tired, but my team went out there and played. We got around the ball; we got around the goal. I thought someone was going to get a head on that, but I am kind of glad they didn’t so I could score. That is the spot that I try to be in, and it was just a good day. The goalie got her hand on it, which kind of made me nervous, but after that I was just like, ‘Oh thank God.’ It’s over; we’re done. It was a great feeling,” Flynn said.
Senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford, in her third career start, ended the match with seven saves in over 93 minutes of action. She fought off the Utes' strong second-half attack, as Utah out-shot Utah State 12-2 in the second half. The win was the first of Mulford's career and was also her first career shutout.
Mulford kept the Utes off the scoreboard in the 56th minute when Katie Rigby fired two-straight shots. Mulford was able to get a hand both to keep the score tied at 0-0 at the end of regulation.
“I’ve been the back-up keeper for three years, behind Molli Merrill. She is an awesome keeper. I came into this season ready to step up and be that starting keeper. That’s what my mentality was going into this game that I wanted to earn that spot. Our team played really well. It was hard fought for sure. We were having some struggles, but the fact that we came out with a win, even with struggles I think shows a lot of character,” Mulford said.
Flynn scored on the Aggie's first shot of the overtime period. Utah State also had one cornerkick in extra time.
Utah State will now prepare for its true home opener at the newly remodeled Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 12 p.m. The Aggies will take on UTEP for the first time since the 2008 season when USU defeated the Miners 2-1 in Logan. Permanent bleachers have been added to the west side along with new banners to honor the Aggies Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.