SANDY — It took almost six full games, but Utah Royals FC has finally scored more than one goal in a contest.
Better yet, URFC picked up another win on Saturday night.
Makenzy Doniak’s breakaway in the 89th minute at Rio Tinto Stadium sealed the deal as URFC topped the Orlando Pride 2-0 to move back atop the National Women’s Soccer League table, at least for the night.
“It’s so nice to have that comfort goal, a little bit of a cushion instead of kind of a frantic, crazy last 5-10 minutes,” said Amy Rodriguez, who scored the first goal of the night and her fourth of the season on a penalty kick in the 31st minute. “We were able to get that second goal, and it feels so good to come away with the win today.”
On a night when URFC created plenty of chances against a Pride team that has given up by far the most goals in the NWSL thus far, the home side didn’t find the net in the run of play until getting a free kick on a foul by Orlando’s Carson Pickett.
URFC’s Lo’eau LaBonta played the free kick quickly, and she and Doniak made eye contact. The Pride were out of position, Doniak broke free and nutmegged Pride goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer.
“I think just the attacking nature out of me came out and I’m really happy I was able to finish it,” said Doniak, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL and scored her first goal since 2016.
Immediately after the goal, Doniak raised up her arms and started to tear up as her teammates came to embrace her.
“It’s honestly indescribable,” Doniak said. “Just the work to get here, it’s really hard, so it meant a lot to me. I’m really happy. I feel good. I feel proud of the team. Just good spirits.”
While URFC finally broke through for a second goal, head coach Laura Harvey acknowledged it wasn’t her team’s best night. Nevertheless, she was pleased with the fight her team showed as it moved to 4-1-1 on the season.
URFC is the first team in the NWSL to reach the four-win mark.
“I felt that we created enough chances for it to be at least two (goals), but I think that today’s a game where I don’t think it was our best performance by a long stretch, but I think that we showed some grit and character, which we’d asked for of the players all week,” Harvey said.
Getting the second goal was certainly the big story of the night, but the URFC defense once again was excellent even though it is now without both primary center backs, as Becky Sauerbrunn and Rachel Corsie are now gone with their respective national teams preparing for the World Cup (Saturday was outside back Katie Bowen’s last game before leaving for World Cup preparation).
Nicole Barnhart was her usual self in goal, and rookie Gaby Vincent fared well in her first career start in Corsie’s place as URFC got its fourth clean sheet of the season.
“We’re very proud of clean sheets, and once we scored the second, it was all about keeping that clean sheet,” Harvey said.
URFC got on the board in the first half when, in the 31st minute, Mandy Laddish sent a ball into the box. It ended up at Vero Boquete’s feet, but Boquete was undercut by Bridget Callahan, resulting in a penalty kick.
Rodriguez was called on to make the kick, and she buried it as Kopmeyer was frozen.Comment on this story
“I feel like I’ve been in this game a long time, and I understand that PK can be a pressure moment, but it’s OK,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like that’s what strikers are meant to handle and I knew where I wanted to go. I knew that I was confident in my shot and I just went up and took it.”
While Boquete’s play led to the goal, seven minutes later, she had to leave the contest because of a right quad injury. Harvey said it’s something Boquete had been nursing entering Saturday, but her status moving forward is unclear.
Next up for URFC is a June 1 road game against the Washington Spirit.