The ball stretched the net toward a sea of yellow, and for a second the drums and thunder sticks fell silent. Then came the exhale of disappointment from the sellout crowd.
Utah Royals FC fell to Chicago 1-0 in front of a full Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday afternoon. Their first-ever loss came in their inaugural home match.
“In this league you don’t get tons of chances,” Royals coach Laura Harvey said, “and when you do, you’ve got to score. And they got a decent chance, and it was a great finish, and we had a couple of good chances but couldn’t finish.”
Chicago’s goal came after the Royals failed to fully clear a ball in the box. Utah got a head on the cross, but Danielle Colaprico was there to meet the ball at the top of the penalty area. On her second touch she volleyed a shot into the upper right-hand corner of the goal. Just under the crossbar, it slid in just out of Royals goalkeeper Abby Smith’s reach as she soared across the net.
The Royals’ fans’ disappointment was heightened by a no-call just five minutes prior that would have awarded Utah penalty kick.
Royals midfielder Gunnhildur Jonsdottir had settled a long ball behind the Red Stars’ back line, and when she turned only goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher stood between her and the net. Chicago defender Sam Johnson closed in from behind and snuck around Jonsdottir’s left side. Then Johnson slid in front of her, taking Jonsdottir out in the box and knocking the ball away. There was no whistle.
“I’m hopefully not going to get fined,” Harvey said, “but I don’t think the player touched the ball that tackled Gunny.”
Despite The Royals taking 13 shots and the Red Stars taking 10, neither team was able to find the back of the net in the remainder of the match.
Storylines<br>• The Royals sold out their home opener with an attendance of 19,203.<br>• Amy Rodriguez returns after missing almost all of the past two seasons first to pregnancy, and then to an ACL injury.<br>The Royals open their home field campaign with their first loss of the season.
“I think we’ve got a few more levels that we can get to,” Royals captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “I think we need to add a little bit more sophistication, I think we had a little bit more time on the ball than I thought we did. I do think we had chances, so I think if we put one of those on goal maybe one goes in against goalkeeper Alyssa [Naeher].”
The Royals had ample opportunity to score, but put only one shot on frame, a shot by Amy Rodriguez. She made her first appearance since tearing her ACL a year ago in FC Kansas City’s season opener.
Then in the 55th minute, Jonsdottir had a chance to tie the match. Diana Matheson played a ball in to give Jonsdottir a one-on-one with Naeher. The Unites States women’s national team goalkeeper jumped off her line to knock away Jonsdottir’s shot from short range.
At the end of the match the Royals, as a group, walked the perimeter of the field, clapping their hands over their heads for the fans who experienced their historical first match. The crowd showed them love right back, cheering and banging their thunder sticks for, not the winning team, but for the first time on home soil, Utah’s team.