Christen Press’ debut ends in scoreless tie for Utah Royals

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Christen Press, Royals FC kicks the ball in soccer action between Utah Royals FC and Seattle Reign FC, at Rio Tinto Stadium, Wednesday, June 27, 2018.

Sandy • It was the same ending to a different story.

In its first season, Utah Royals FC have been defined by their lack of offense, sitting last in the National Women’s Soccer League in too many offensive categories, leaving too many zeroes on the scoreboard.

But even in a scoreless tie with the Seattle Reign on Wednesday night, there was something different about the women in gold. They needed a goal, but they certainly weren’t lacking firepower.

They can thank their new star striker for that.

Despite having only trained once with the club since being traded to Utah last week, Christen Press provided an instant punch for a team sorely lacking one.

“She’s a threat,” Royal coach Laura Harvey said. “… That’s why we traded for her.”

Less than a week after arriving in Utah, the centerpiece of the Royals’ blockbuster three-team trade, was in the starting lineup for her new club. The U.S. women’s national team star was the last player announced during introductions and heard the loudest roar from the announced crowd of 8,500 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“The crowd was fantastic,” Press said. “It was a lot of fun to play in this environment. I’m really excited for this season and building a relationship with this fan base.”

Press wasted little time showing her new fans what she can do. In the 16th minute, Press squared up from outside the box and fired a low, hard shot toward the bottom right corner, forcing a diving save by Seattle goalie Michelle Betos. Press hit the target again five minutes later.

With time winding down in the second half, Press was again the focal point. In the 88th minute, she cut inside a defender in the box and fired a left-footed shot into the keeper’s hands. In the 90th minute, Press fired a shot that squeezed between the keeper’s legs — catching enough of her body to die just before it crossed the goal line.

“Of course I’m disappointed in the result,” Press said. “As a forward, a 0-0 scoreline is incredibly disappointing. I take that personally. It’s my job to finish chances.”

Press attempted seven of the Royals’ 19 shots. But after finishing in a scoreless draw for a third time in four games, Harvey wasn’t totally satisfied with the effort.

“There’s no draw in this league that I’ve been happy with,” said Harvey, who spent four seasons as the head coach in Seattle from 2013-17. “This is probably the most disappointing actually, because of the amount of chances.”

Press played a full 90 minutes, something she hadn’t done much in recent weeks with her Swedish club. But the 29-year-old said she felt good enough that she would be ready to play in the Royals’ upcoming match on Saturday to build upon Wednesday’s debut.

“That’s the goal with any front line, to build chemistry over time,” she said. “I think there were enough opportunities in this game that we could have won. That’s a good start. From there … the biggest thing I always think about is that feeling on the field [when] your teammates trust you to score. When there’s an opportunity, the game’s on the line, do they believe you’re going to score? …

“You build that trust by finishing chances. Today was ground zero and up we go.”