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 Utah Royals FC

Royals Suffer Narrow Away Loss to North Carolina Courage

May 18, 2024 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)
Utah Royals FC News Release


CARY, North Carolina - Utah Royals (1-8-1, 4 pts, 14th NWSL) fell to another away defeat - its eighth defeat altogether of the season, and an eighth straight game without a win - in the club's maiden NWSL campaign in an ultimately narrow 1-0 loss on the road against North Carolina Courage (5-5-0, 15 pts, 6th NWSL) at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina on Friday, May 17th, 2024.

The Royals came into the game buoyed by its 2-1 victory over the Courage in both sides' previous encounter earlier in the season on March 22nd at America First Field, and looking to end its seven-game winless streak in the league.

The first half proved to be a tale of attack versus defense as the Courage completely dominated proceedings from the first whistle as the Royals struggled to contain its swashbuckling opponents.

NC Courage flew into an immediate bright start creating two clear-cut chances within the first three minutes in what offered a brief glimpse of what would come throughout the rest of the contest.

The Courage's first chance in the game arrived with barely a minute on the clock when wingback, Ryan Williams was afforded space and time to run down the length of the right flank before drilling a low cross into the penalty box which was met by Haley Hopkins, but the striker's finish lacked precision and direction, going wide off the goal.

Courage immediately created another clear chance barely a minute after the first. A well-worked move released midfielder, Manaka Matsukubo down the left wing who also ran down the flank before releasing an early low ball into the path of an unmarked Hopkins in the box, but once again, the striker failed to direct her shot properly on goal, missing the target and sending her effort wide.

Although NC Courage failed to capitalize on their early opportunities, the team's approach and dominance signaled a clear statement of intent from the hosts. Courage continued to dominate proceedings, monopolizing possession and creating chance after chance as URFC struggled to contain its opponents particularly out wide where Courage continued to find space to attack and exploit the Royals' defense by pushing up their wingbacks - Tyler Williams and Tyler Lussi - into higher and more advanced positions, and overloading the wide areas.

Courage yet again created another series of glorious chances to take the lead midway through the first half. Striker Ashley Sanchez found a bit of space in the hole between the Royals' midfield and defense and subsequently unleashed a fierce long range effort which was well saved by Mandy Haught. The rebound then fell in the box to Lussi for what looked like an easy tap in, but her shot was narrowly diverted away from goal by Haught, and a third rebound fell into the path of Matsukubowas whose effort was headed off the line by Kate Del Fava as the Royals miraculously survived a flurry of concession of chances to somehow remain in the game as the scoreline remained level.

The chances just kept on coming for the Courage with near submission from the Royals. Another opportunity fell to Hopkins when Williams calmly collected a through ball on the right, and with time and space, drove down into the right side of the penalty area before cutting the ball back for Hopkins for what seemed an easy finish, but the striker failed completely to connect with the pass, totally missing the ball and scuffing her lines.

The Royals continued to struggle throughout the first half with Courage's relentless press and work rate pinning URFC back in their own half for large parts of the half and refusing to give the visitors any time and space on the ball in the moments they did manage to work the ball upfield into more advanced areas.

NC Courage continued to create chances at will, often forcing the visitors into last ditch blocks, tackles, and clearances as they berated and bore down upon the Royals goal. For all their dominance, however, the Courage failed to convert any of their numerous clear-cut chances into goals throughout the first 45 minutes, with the Royals also proving particularly determined in defense, and as such both teams went into halftime on level terms.

URFC began the second half better than the did in the first and quickly created their first chance of the half - and game - early on when Ally Sentnor played Cameron Tucker through on goal behind the Courage defense but her left footed effort from the left side of the penalty area was narrowly saved by Casey Murphy in goal for NC Courage. However, Tucker was deemed to have wandered offside during the buildup and so a goal would not have stood.

NC Courage quickly regained its control and monopoly on the game after that, with another chance coming in the 52nd minute. A floated ball from a freekick from Sanchez found Hopkins in the box who rose highest with a towering header which went agonizingly wide as the hosts continued their search for the game's opener.

The next clearest opportunity for the Courage then arrived in the 63rd minute. A finely-worked attacking sequence from a throw in released Williams down the right flank with ample time and space to deliver a dangerous low cross across the face of goal and all the way to Lussi for what looked like a surefire goal, but Haught recovered just in time and against the odds to make a miraculous save on the line to almost single handedly keep the scores level and keep the Royals with a chance in the game.

In a backs against the wall performance, the Royals showed much collective grit and determination defensively in keeping its opponents at bay, and looked like it had done enough to hold on for what would have been a hard fought point, but a late Courage goal near the death changed the eventual narrative of the game. Another finely-worked Courage attacking sequence released Williams yet again down the right flank to deliver a low dangerous cross into the box which was met by Brianna Pinto who took a single touch to cushion the ball into the path of Kaleigh Kurtz, and the center back arrived on hand with a late dart into the penalty box to arrow a low powerful effort beneath Haught and into the back of the net to establish a late lead for the hosts and send the home fans into ecstasy.

The Royals fought back late on for an equalizer and was presented with a glorious opportunity late on when a ball from Ally Sentnor over the top of the courage defense found Hannah Betfort onside and through on goal, but the striker subsequently failed to connect properly with her shot on the ball, and dragged her effort wide.

The solitary goal proved to be enough for the Courage to record a famous win and condemn the Royals to a fourth successive defeat and an eighth straight NWSL game without a win for the Utah based outfit.

The loss puts the early 2024 Utah Royals season record at 1-8-1. Next up for the Royals is a return to America First Field on May 25th to face Kansas City Current. Kickoff is at 8:00 PM, MT. Tickets can be found at https://www.rsl.com/utahroyals/tickets/ .

UTA 0 : 1 NC

GOAL-SCORING SUMMARY:

NC: Kaleigh Kurtz (Brianna Pinto) 76': A well-worked Courage attacking sequence released Ryan Williams down the right flank to deliver a low dangerous cross into the box which was met by Brianna Pinto who took a solitary touch to cushion the ball into the path of Kaleigh Kurtz, and the center back arrived on hand with a late dart into the penalty box to arrow a low powerful effort beneath Haught and into the back of the net.

LINEUPS:

Utah Royals FC (4-3-3): Mandy Haught; Zoe Burns, Kate Del Fava, Lauren Flynn, Madison Pogarch (F. Tagliaferri, 67'); A. Nyberg (B. Mozingo, 68'), Amandine Henry, Dana Foederer (Emily Gray, 88'); Paige Monaghan, Ally Sentnor, Cameron Tucker (Hannah Betfort, 76')

Subs not used: Addisyn Merrick, Cristina Roque, Michele Vasconcelos

North Carolina Courage (4-2-3-1): Casey Murphy; R. Williams, K. Kurtz, M. Berkely, F. Rauch; N. Miura, B. Pinto (V. Pickett, 80'), T. Lussi (B. St. Georges, 80'), A. Sanchez (M. Speck, 90'), H. Hopkins; M. Matsukubo (R. Jackson, 72')

Subs not used: Marisa Bova, J. Winebrenner, M. Mccutcheon, L. Mertz

Stats Summary: UTA / NC

Possession: 63% / 37%

Shots: 20 / 3

Shots on Goal: 10 / 0

Saves: 0 / 5

Corner Kicks: 7 / 0

Fouls: 12 / 12

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:

UTA: A. Nyberg (Yellow card, 17'), A. Henry (Yellow card, 87'). 12 total fouls

NC: No bookings. 12 total fouls


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