SANTA MONICA — So far, the biggest upset the 2018 NWSL season was played over the weekend in North Carolina. The play was intense and the fans were treated to great soccer. On Saturday, Utah Royals upset the favored Courage. While Sky Blue fought and played hard but ultimately fell 3-2 against Orlando Pride.
UTAH ROYALS 1, NCC 0
The Utah Royals beat the undeafted North Carolina Courage Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium.
Utah’s defense did everything it could to keep the Courage out of the goal. Undefeated on the season, North Carolina tallied 15 shots throughout the game and overwhelmed the Royals’ backline with numbers in the box, but Utah didn’t give. Utah’s Abby Smith and her defense kept Carolina out of the goal with endless saves, slide tackles and deflections, holding the courage to just four shots on goal on the night.
It only took one moment to turn the tide for Utah. With time ticking down, North Carolina looked well on its way to its fourth draw of the season; however, Utah wasn’t quite done with it yet. A foul on the Courage gave Utah the opportunity for one more attack in the 94th minute, but NCC was able to clear the ball and start a return attack. Utah’s Brittany Ratcliffe, desperate to make something happen, slid in to steal the ball from a NCC midfielder. Without looking, Ratcliffe turned and shot against the off balanced North Carolina defense and watched her shot soar into the back of the net undefended, handing the Courage their first loss of the season.
Utah moves to 4-5-2 on the season and will return to face Chicago on June 23 at 5 p.m. while North Carolina falls to 9-3-1 and will resume action on June 23 against Seattle at 1 p.m.
ORLANDO PRIDE 3, SKY BLUE 2
Sky Blue may still be winless, but they still provide fans with thrilling performances game after game. The Orlando Pride edged out Sky Blue 3-2 Saturday at Orlando City Stadium.
After coming out of the locker room tide, both teams sought to get the upper hand in the second. While many attempts were taken, Orlando and Sky Blue watched its attempts go all around the goal. From wide attempts to denied shots, neither team could find the advantage in the match until the 83rd minute of play. In a great show of soccer, Orlando found the game winning goal. Marta dumped the ball off to Alex Morgan on the wing. Morgan booted it directly in front of the net as Rachel Hill crashed in, heading the ball through Sky Blue’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan’s hands.
However, prior to the second half, both teams put up a mesmerizing performance on the field. The first half provided one of the best performance of the weekend in the NWSL as Orlando fought to stay on top while Sky Blue looked to flip the scoreboard. The teams struggled back and forth over the first 45 minutes of play. Orlando wasted no time after the first whistle as Sydney Leroux took advantage of an unaware defense, scoring in the second minute of play. She scored again in the 31st minute off a diving header, assisted by Christine Nairn.
Meanwhile, Sky Blue showed the importance of following up on a shot. Both New Jersey’s goal scored off rebound shots after the first shot was denied by Ashley Harris. Savannah McCaskill pushed in Sky Blue’s first goal after Harris’s block rolled into her feet in the 16th minute for the equalizer. Twenty minutes later Madison Tiernan tapped in a rebound shot for Sky Blue’s second equalizer of the night.
Sky Blue falls to 0-2-9 and returns to face Portland on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. while Orlando moves to 5-4-3 and will turn around to face Washington Spirit on June 23 at 4 p.m.
In other NWSL news, Chicago and Portland drew 1-1, while Washington and Seattle ended even at 0 – 0.