Here are three takeaways from the Utah Royals FC’s loss to the Houston Dash.
1. A cut, but not a scar
As competitive as the Royals are individually and as a team, it’s unclear whether they should really care about this loss to Houston.
Think about it this way: Utah didn’t lose its playoff position. It outshot Houston 14-9 (4-3 on goal). It won almost all the major statistical categories with the exception of saves.
Sometimes it’s not your night. Sometimes a team plays better or finishes more chances or saves more shots. And it seems as though that was at the crux of Utah’s misfortune Friday.
That most likely won’t be the message coming from coach Laura Harvey or any of the players on the team. But with how well the Royals have been playing, losing to a struggling Houston team for which everything went right isn’t too much of a cause for concern.
2. Houston’s goals weren’t Nicole Barnhart’s fault
Utah’s star goalkeeper, who has a league-leading 10 clean sheets on the season, recorded only one save Friday. It’s been a while since Barnhart has given up two goals to an opponent, but there wasn’t much she could do about either of the ones the Dash scored on her.
On the first goal, the Royals looked like they had an opportunity to clear the ball out of the box. Defender Rachel Corsie tried, but fell after she made contact with the ball. As she tried to get up she stumbled, and that left just enough time for Sofia Huerta to beat Barnhart. If Corsie doesn’t trip, she probably impacts that play.
The second goal was arguably even more flukey. Huerta had just Barnhart to beat and decided to aim her shot toward the roof of the goal — a tough angle to begin with. Her shot hit the crossbar and fell behind the goal line. That type of goal doesn’t happen very often.
It’s true that the ball went above Barnhart’s hand and head. But if a shot like that goes in, one almost has to just tip their hat to Huerta for getting it in the goal.
3. Subs create chances, too
At this point of the season, Gunnhildur Jonsdottir and Erika Tymrak serve as bench players, asked to come in the game and change the complexion of it. And after coming on while the Royals were down 2-0, they did just that.
Jonsdottir notched her first goal of the season on Tymrak’s assist — her first since August of last year — cutting Utah’s deficit in half with enough time to find an equalizer. The goal came while both players were in the right place at the time.
On a night when Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez couldn’t find the back of the net despite combining for nine shots (three on goal), the Royals have to feel good that two subs came in and put the team in position to steal a point on the road.