Sandy • In the entire existence of the Utah Royals FC franchise, not falling to the North Carolina Courage has been its modus operandi. Last season, the Royals were the only team in the National Women’s Soccer League that didn’t lose to the Courage, and they continued that with the first game between the two this year.

But on Saturday, in front of an announced crowd of 10,545 at Rio Tinto Stadium, that trend stopped. Utah lost 2-1 to the Courage.

The Royals, winless in their last five games, have expressed disappointment after the last handful. Right now, Utah sits sixth in the NWSL standings with 11 games remaining.

“We are leaving disappointed because we know we deserve more,” midfielder Desiree Scott said. “I think that’s something to take away from the game. If we knew we got outplayed, I think that would be an issue. But I think we’re right there.”

For the first half of the 2019 season, the Royals had their ups and downs. A dream start to the season turned into a malaise in recent weeks. After all their Women’s World Cup players returned against the Portland Thorns, the Royals still couldn’t muster a win.

The second half of the season officially started for Utah with Saturday night’s loss. Royals coach Laura Harvey said the key for Utah to get out of its current funk is to focus on the positives of the games while also just playing better offensively.

“We’ve got to be more dangerous, more threatening,” Harvey said.

The Royals welcomed back Vero Boquete to the starting lineup. The last game she started was June 15 against Sky Blue FC. She suffered an ankle injury that game and came back last week against the Thorns in a reserve role.

Boquete said she felt good playing a full 90 minutes after not being able to run for the majority of her rehab.

“Today we were not sure how long I could be [on the field],” said Boquete, who played 15 minutes against Sky Blue. “I’m happy that I [played] the 90 minutes, but of course a little disappointed that I can’t help [give] more to the team at least to take one point.”

The Courage took the lead in the 55th minute on a two-on-one breakaway. Hamilton dribbled up the left side of the field and passed to Jessica McDonald. After a move to get free, McDonald scored, giving North Carolina a 2-1 advantage.

It didn’t take long for the Royals to put their stamp on the game. In the 13th minute, Boquete went forward and found Christen Press with a diagonal pass. Press took one touch before shooting at the back post and finding the back of the net.

“It’s just too easy to play with Christen,” Boquete said.

The Courage equalized in the 35th. After dispossessing the Royals in the backfield, Samantha Mewis floated a cross to Kristen Hamilton in the box. Hamilton headed the ball to herself and got her right foot on it for the shot, which went past the outstretched arms of Royals keeper Nicole Barnhart.

It appeared that Utah would tie the game in the 74th minute, but Courage keeper Stephanie Labbé decided otherwise. A shot by Kelley O’Hara and the rebound shot from point-blank range by Katie Stengel were both stopped by Labbé, who notched six saves on the evening.

Harvey said she felt the Courage didn’t put them under enough pressure throughout the game. Because of that, she said, she was disappointed that the team “came away with nothing.” Boquete concurred.

“We are disappointed today, we will be disappointed tomorrow,” Boquete said.