SANDY — The Utah Royals FC are back in the running for the playoffs thanks to a 1-0 victory against the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night.
Last Sunday things looked bleak for head coach Laura Harvey and her team, but after that night when Royals FC beat the Houston Dash 2-1 and now with Wednesday's win, URFC has tallied six more points, only one point away from being in the top four.
This game was the second of a quick succession of three games after the Tournament of Nations. After many close shots and bare misses, many of the players were growing tired by the second half.
Taylor Lytle subbed in for Erika Tymrak and Diana Matheson subbed in for Amy Rodriguez, giving the game some fresh energy, a move that would lead to the winning goal.
URFC lead goal scorer Katie Stengel added one more goal to her record this season, now five total, with this game being the second game in a row in which she has scored the game-winning goal.
Lytle crossed from downfield and when the ball reached Matheson she leaped over the ball in a stunning step over, redirecting the defenders’ attention to leave the way open for Stengel to launch ball directly into the bottom left corner.
“Diana’s just clever. She sees the game; she understands the game. Something as simple as the step over … You just have to understand the game to do things like that,” Harvey said.
As far as her secret to scoring, Stengel says that her teammates and their connection are a large part of her success so far.
“I think I’m surrounded by players that all have this mentality that we have to win every game,” she said. “People around me are drawing even more defenders and they have so much tension on them, so if I’m open I gotta put away my chances.”
But even though the team won, the team is not quite satisfied with the quality of the win.
“We could have found Erika and Christen (Press) a thousand times more than we did,” Harvey said. “We’ve won, but we’re frustrated because we felt like we could’ve won it by a lot more.”Comment on this story
The flaw was in finding the open players on the wing and trying to fit recent acquisition Press into the lineup, explained Harvey. But her team is determined to bring their A-game to the next game against Seattle Reign FC on Saturday at Rio Tinto.
After their 1-0 loss to Reign back in July, and the race for the playoffs going down to the wire, URFC has something to prove.
“We’ve got a little bit of bite inside of us. We really want to show we’re better,” Harvey said. “If we turn this into a nine-point turnaround, even Seattle might be looking over their shoulder.”