PISCATAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J .— The Utah Royals may have kept their playoff hopes alive with a last-second goal Saturday night.
URFC salvaged a 2-2 draw against NWSL doormat Sky Blue FC on Amy Rodriguez’s last-second goal in the 94th minute.
It was a heartbreaker for Sky Blue (0-14-5) as the team was looking for its first victory of the season. The hosts led almost the entire match on two goals from Katie Johnson, but an own goal after a long weather delay and Rodriguez’s goal left coach Denise Reddy visibly upset after the final whistle at Yurcak Field.
With the point earned, the Utah Royals (7-7-8) are just one point back of fourth-place Orlando Pride with two games remaining in the season. The task will still be difficult as the Royals not only have to hold off Houston, which is tied with URFC at 29 points, but pass both Chicago (30 points) and Orlando (30 points). All three teams have played less games than Utah.
URFC will travel to Washington on Wednesday to play the Spirit before returning home on Sept. 8 against Chicago.
The Royals fell behind early as Sky Blue took just its second lead of the season on Johnson’s first goal in the 14th minute. She put away a shot into the right side of the net after a scramble at the top of the box.
Her second goal, which came in the 48th minute, was high-quality strike — a volley from beyond the 18-yard box.
Johnson nearly had a hat trick, but smashed the all off the crossbar in the 50th minute.
The Royals’ Rodriguez had a chance to score in the 54th minute, but Sky Blue keeper Kailen Sheridan made the reaction save just before a 35-minute lightning delay.
URFC pulled one back just minutes after the delay, when SBFC’s Dominique Richardson deflected a Rodriguez shot in her own goal.
Utah continued to press and Rodriguez just missed chipping over the charging Sheridan. Fifteen minutes later, Rodriguez had another chance inside the box, but it went wide.Comment on this story
Press looked to have earned a penalty in 80th minute when she was taken down from behind, but the referee waved off the Royals’ appeals.
Substitute Taylor Lytle came in the 57th minute and brought a lot of life to the Royals’ attack. Her cross in the 86th minute found Gunny Jonsdottir, but her header went just over the bar. Lytle’s cross in the last minute of the game started the sequence of events that led to the Royals’ game-tying goal.
The draw kept the Royals from having the odd distinction of being the only team to have beaten league-leaders North Carolina and the only team to have lost to Sky Blue.