Early goal not enough as Utah Royals FC tie North Carolina Courage 1-1

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) takes a shot on goal as Utah Royals FC hosts the Houston Dash at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday May 11, 2019.

Two powerhouses of the National Women’s Soccer League finally faced off for the first time in the 2019 season. Both teams were coming off their first losses of the year just a week ago, both trying to get back to their winning ways.

But neither team prevailed. Instead, the Utah Royals FC and North Carolina Courage played to a 1-1 draw on Sunday at Sahlen’s Stadium in Cary, North Carolina. Utah (3-1-1) moved into a three-way tie with Houston and Washington for second place in the league with 10 points (Chicago leads with 11), while the Courage (2-1-3) avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since May 2017.

Royals forward Amy Rodriguez gave Utah a lead in the seventh minute. URFC held on to that lead until the 78th minute, when North Carolina reserve Elizabeth Eddy finished from just outside the six-yard box.

The Royals have now tied the Courage in three of the four games between the two teams since last season, and remain the only NWSL team not to lose to North Carolina.

“We said before the game we had to be tough, we had to be brave, we had to put our bodies on the line and I think everybody did that,” Royals defender Rachel Corsie said. "It was difficult, we’ve got injuries, we had to make changes and everyone that came in did an exceptional job. I’m proud of how we played.”

A multitude of one-touch passes led to Rodriguez’s early goal. Gunnhildur Jonsdottir brought down a high ball with a clockwise kick that found Katie Stengel. From there, Stengel one-touched to Vero Boquete, who also one-touched to Rodriguez. Rodriguez slid into Boquete’s pass and the ball found its way to the left side of the goal for an early 1-0 lead.

But from that point, North Carolina continually pressured Utah’s defense, dominated possession and made it difficult for the Royals to come out of their own half of the field. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart saved two shots by the Courage’s second-leading scorer, Lynn Williams, that she faced in one-on-one situations against the striker.

Eddy’s equalizer came on a quick buildup from the midfield. Debinha settled a long ball and flicked it sideways into Eddy’s path. Eddy shot toward the far post and found the back of the net.