I felt over the 90 minutes, we were the better team. We created more dangerous opportunities than they did. —URFC head coach Laura Harvey
SANDY — After breaking through for their first-ever win last Saturday following four draws in five matches, Utah Royals FC returned to the tie column on Wednesday night.
Facing the Orlando Pride for the second time this season, URFC controlled the match at Rio Tinto Stadium but couldn’t find the net and had to settle for a 0-0 score to move to 1-1-5 on the season.
It was the second draw between the two sides, as they finished in a 1-1 tie in the season opener on March 24 in Orlando.
The home side was playing on short rest after beating the Washington Spirit at home last weekend, but nevertheless, head coach Laura Harvey was disappointed it couldn’t pick up the three points after finishing with 13 shots compared to just four for the Pride.
“I felt over the 90 minutes, we were the better team,” she said. “We created more dangerous opportunities than they did.”
That was specifically the case late in the contest as URFC began to press for a goal, controlling possession in the offensive third over the final 20 minutes. Katie Stengel, who came on for Amy Rodriguez in the 76th minute, had two especially good chances.
The first came via a one-on-one opportunity with Orlando goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in the 80th minute that got stymied and the second was a shot in the 90th minute that was cleared by longtime United States Women’s National Team member Ali Krieger.
“Not happy about it,” Stengel said about the second chance. “Frustrated it didn’t go in. I think a clear shot into traffic, something could happen, but we’re unlucky and I think if we keep getting those chances, sooner or later we’ll get some luck.”
After a first half that saw neither side get much traction (although URFC had five shots compared to just one for the Pride), Harvey challenged her team to be “braver” on the ball, which she felt was what led to the late chances.
“I think we got the reward of that,” she said. “We put them on their back foot I felt a little bit more. I thought we dominated the midfield a bit better in the second half, but I think that for us, we want to just keep building, and the building for us is when you have that momentum, you’ve got to finish a team off, and unfortunately tonight we didn’t do that.”
While there was a general feeling of disappointment about the draw given that URFC had so many chances and comfortably won the time of possession battle, Harvey was pleased her side put together a solid defensive performance once again versus a team full of offensive firepower, including Brazilian star Marta and USWNT members Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux.
“I felt like defending as a team collectively again was very, very good,” she said.
Captain Becky Sauerbrunn said of the approach to defending such a team: “I think it’s really just being very aware of where they are and the spaces that they’re trying to capitalize on. I think we’re always as defenders trying to protect the space in behind and we’re playing very pacey forwards, and so I thought the back line did a good job of protecting that but also not giving so much respect that they could just get the ball and start running at us.”
A potentially significant downer for URFC came in second-half stoppage time as Kelley O’Hara, who has been dealing with a strained left hamstring since the season opener, was subbed off, covering her face as she left the field.
Harvey didn’t have an update on O’Hara’s condition after the match but suspected it was a re-aggravation of the injury.
On the plus side, O’Hara will have some time to try to rehab before URFC’s next match, a May 19 date with the Houston Dash at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The two sides played to a 0-0 draw in Week 2.