Herriman • Utah Royals FC coach Craig Harrington compared captain Amy Rodriguez to Michael Jordan after Utah’s 1-0 victory over Sky Blue FC on Saturday.

“We all watched ‘The Last Dance’ and if you’re on the Chicago Bulls, you get Michael Jordan the ball,” said Harrington, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant with the Chicago Red Stars before coming to Utah. “So if you’re on the Utah Royals, you get A-Rod the ball, and you get those players to feed her and do that.”

Rodriguez scored the only goal for the Royals on their win at Zions Bank Stadium. It was her first of the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup after assisting on one in Tuesday’s draw to the Houston Dash.

But her goal didn’t come without help. Midfielder Vero Boquete, who scored against the Dash, put a pinpoint through ball to Rodriguez’s feet, giving the forward all she needed to put it away.

The connection between Rodriguez and Boquete is one the Spaniard called “easy and special,” and one Harrington believes is impactful not only for the tournament, but the future of the Royals beyond it.

“We need our match winners,” Harrington said. “Vero and A-Rod are match winners.”

Rodriguez and Boquete now each have a goal and an assist through two tournament games. In 2019, Rodriguez led the team in goals with nine, while Boquete led in assists with six.

Rodriguez said Boquete is “one of the best midfielders in the world” and “loves” playing with her.

“How lucky am I as a forward to play in front of her and to make runs off of her?” Rodriguez said. “She’s so dangerous and she makes my job very easy.”

This tournament marks the second season Rodriguez and Boquete are playing together. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but Harrington hinted at how much their relationship on the field has already become second nature.

“Vero doesn’t even have to look and she knows the runs and the areas that A-Rod is going to be running into,” Harrington said. “I just think those two are leading from the front with that veteran leadership.”

Harrington also complimented the level of fitness for the forward-midfielder pair.

“They’re playing like they’re 23 again,” Harrington said.

It appears the Royals will go as far as Rodriguez and Boquete take them. Boquete suggested that what she and Rodriguez have, with the addition of the players around them, can be very dangerous for opponents.

“Obviously when a No. 10 and a No. 9 find that connection, it’s really good because then we know that at any point during the game, we can score, we can create opportunities,” Boquete said.

Rodriguez took four total shots Saturday. The Royals took 14 as a team, four of which were on goal.

Utah’s win marked its first win of the 2020 season. With the draw to Houston on Tuesday, that gives the Royals four points in the preliminary round of the Challenge Cup, ranking them second behind the North Carolina Courage (six points).

Houston shuts out OL Reign
Kristie Mewis and Shae Groom scored to give the Houston Dash a 2-0 victory over OL Reign on Saturday night in the group stage of the NWSL’s Challenge Cup tournament.
The Dash now have five goals, most of any team in the tournament.
Mewis scored in the 12th minute, taking a sweet back heel pass from Shea Groom and blasting the ball from just inside the penalty area.
Groom scored on a precisely executed leaping header in the 54th minute. It was her second goal of the tournament.
— The Associated Press