Here are three takeaways from Friday’s 2-2 draw between the Utah Royals FC and Portland Thorns.
1. That game was goals
Before Friday, the Royals had scored only single goal in the previous five games. Unsurprisingly, three of those games resulted in losses. For the entire season, the team has talked about its lack of scoring punch, but has struggled to find ways to solve it.
But the addition of Christen Press gave Utah an extra forward to pair with Amy Rodriguez, who has been virtually the only player scoring on a consistent basis. That meant Portland couldn’t double-mark Rodriguez, having to pay attention to two attackers instead of one.
Even more unsurprisingly, Press notched the first goal for URFC in stunning fashion. It could have been a preview of things to come in the Royals attack.
Rachel Corsie’s goal came in dramatic fashion — a 90th minute equalizer she put away by a well-timed run and slide on a well-placed ball. The Rio Tinto Stadium crowed of nearly 16,000 went bonkers.
The fact that the first game featuring several players from the U.S. Women’s National Team ended in an exciting draw is not only good for the Royals, but it’s great for the NWSL in its quest to up interest and ticket sales in the wake of the Women’s World Cup. Not every game will be like that, but for fans getting a glimpse of the talent that is dispersed throughout the league is what the NWSL and its team want.
2. First half of the season is over
Twelve games are in the books for the Royals and they have 18 points and a fifth-place position in the NWSL standings to show for it. After a strong start to the year, they’ve dipped in form lately and haven’t been shy about voicing their disappointment in recent weeks.
But in the second half against Portland, Utah’s attack looked much more dangerous than it has in recent weeks. Vero Boquete played 12 minutes and changed the complexion of the game after missing several weeks with an ankle injury.
With 12 games left in the season, the Royals could be looking at the start of a run.
“What I loved about tonight was that there were moments of momentum where it felt like we were the team that we could be,” Press said. “So I think that the goal for us this season, especially after last season, is to make that part of us consistent.”
Corsie said in the first half of an NWSL season, teams are still finding their form because the preseason is so short. She knows the time to string together some wins is now.
“The league’s always tight and the best teams are the ones who, from this point onward, really step it up,” Corsie said.
3. Adrianna Franch is a beast
The Thorns goalkeeper who just so happens to be a backup for the USWNT amassed five saves on the evening. The Royals, especially in the second half, tested her with shot on goal after shot on goal, and Franch came up with big save after big save.
In one stoppage-time sequence, Rodriguez couldn’t have been 3 yards away from the goal on a shot, but Franch saved it — wait for it — with her face.
And that’s not all. Moments later, Katie Stengel had a point-blank shot to take the lead, but Franch again stopped it.
Royals coached Laura Harvey praised Franch for her efforts after the game.
“I think if it wasn’t for [Adrianna] Franch, we’d have won the game,” Harvey said. “I think she made some excellent saves.”