Utah Royals FC players, along with head coach Laura Harvey, knew that their four-game road trip which started Friday night would be a huge challenge despite the fact that the club has played well over the last month, and it indeed got off to a tough start.
Portland Thorns FC scored two goals in the first half and goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom finished with a clean sheet as the home side came away with a 2-0 victory at Providence Park.
The loss snapped URFC’s five-game unbeaten streak, which had included wins in two of its last three matches, both of which had come during a four-game homestand. Friday marked Utah’s first road loss of the season as it moved to 2-2-5. The Thorns are now 4-3-3 on the year.
In the 18th minute, Portland’s Christine Sinclair showed why she’s the NWSL’s leading goal-scorer. Possessing the ball just past midfield, she sent it past the URFC back line, which was playing up high. Tobin Heath gathered it outside the 18-yard box and then dished it back to Sinclair, who had snuck past the URFC midfield up to the box.
Utah defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Corsie were in front of Sinclair, but she had both time and space to rifle a shot toward the left side of the goal. Abby Smith dived and got her fingertips on it, but the ball got past her and into the net.
Then in the 39th minute, the Thorns’ Meghan Klingenberg sent a cross from the left wing well outside the box toward Smith. URFC’s goalkeeper opted to try to punch the ball out, but she missed it, and it went right to a charging Lindsey Horan at the goal, who tapped it in with her right thigh.
In the first half, both teams finished with five total shots, although two of Portland’s three on goal ended in a score while neither of Utah’s two did. For the night, the squads finished with eight total shots apiece, with five on goal for the Thorns and three for Harvey’s group.
On the plus side for URFC, Elise Thorsnes came on in the 63rd minute for the first time since April 28 because of a hamstring injury, and Amy Rodriguez played a full 90 minutes for the first time all season.
URFC will look to rebound next Saturday in New Jersey when it faces the worst team in the NWSL, Sky Blue FC, which is the only club without a win thus far.