Utah Royals FC went into Sunday’s game against the Portland Thorns without its head and assistant coaches because they were placed on administrative leave. But the Royals still had a game to play despite what was happening off the field.
The Royals opened their four games of the National Women’s Soccer League Fall Series with a 3-0 loss to the Thorns. It was Utah’s first game since losing to the Houston Dash in penalties in the quarterfinals of this summer’s NWSL Challenge Cup.
Midfielder Vero Boquete said the circumstances under which the Royals had to prepare for the game weren’t ideal, but the chance to get on the field was something of a respite for the players.
“I think we needed this game,” Boquete said. “We needed to keep going. I think that today obviously is not the result that we wanted. There are so many things that we have to improve. But just to be out there and to try to perform and to try to be there for each other, I think that that is something to be proud of.”
The Royals fell behind in the first half when Simone Charley scored in the 35th minute. NWSL rookie Sophia Smith, who made her league debut Sunday, scored just three minutes after coming onto the field. Lindsey Horan scored Portland’s third goal in the 81st minute.
“Today’s game, we missed the mark a little bit,” forward Amy Rodriguez said. “We hate walking away losing 3-0. ... I am really excited to continue with this club and play in the next three games coming up. We’ll make some tweaks, but we’re a collective unit that will be pushing on for our club.”
The Thorns picked up their first win of the Fall Series. Royals rookie forward Tziarra King made her first start for the club.
The Royals play Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium against OL Reign.