A late goal by Bethany Balcer ensured a win for Reign, but it was close.
The first big attack came in the 7th minute when Utah’s Amy Rodriguez broke through. Her run was blocked by a slide from one of Reign’s defenders. A few minutes later, Lo’eau LaBonta tried a shot on goal, but it was easily caught by Michelle Betos, Reign’s goalkeeper. The entire first half was based on those little attacks from Utah that just didn’t work out.
The first big chance came early in the second half when Vero Boquete shot the ball through a bunch of Reign’s defenders. Betos had to dive but caught the ball. It was a close call, though. Another big chance came in the 55th minute when Vero assisted Mallory Weber, who didn’t manage to get a good first touch and shot the ball right into Betos’ hands.
It was only in the 70th minute when Utah’s goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart really had to make a save. The keeper reacted fast enough to save a shot from Balcer. Eight minutes later, another save had to be made, when Balcer had another attempt on goal.
Then, one minute into added time, Yuka Momiki assisted Bethany Balcer, who jumped for a header that ended up in the goal via a deflection off Barnhart’s foot. This was Reign’s first goal in the tournament, made by a young substitute that I think will get some more playing time in upcoming games.
Both teams now have 4 points from 3 games. Utah sits in 4th place and Reign in 6th, with Utah having a goal difference of 0 (4 goals scored, 4 conceded) and Reign -1 (1 goal scored, 2 conceded). It’s all quite close. Reign’s next opponent is the Portland Thorns, who are one place behind them. Utah’s next opponent is Chicago Red Stars, who are currently 8th of 8. I assume both teams will be able to win their games.
My player of the match is going to be Bethany Balcer, who was a key player in basically all of Reign’s attacks and of course the one who scored.
Utah Royals FC (3-5-2): Nicole Barnhart; Elizabeth Ball, Rachel Corsie (Taylor Leach 46’), Kate Del Fava; Michelle Maemone (Katie Bowen 46’), Maddie Nolf (Aminata Diallo 46’), Lo’eau LaBonta, Vero Boquete, Mallory Weber (Raisa Strom-Okimoto 76’); Brittany Ratcliffe (Diana Matheson 79’), Amy Rodriguez. Subs not used: Abby Smith, Melissa Lowder, Gaby Vincent, Holly Daugirda, Gunny Jonsdottir, Tziarra King, Taylor Lytle, Marissa Sheva, Arielle Ship, Chestley Strother
OL Reign: (4-3-3): Michelle Betos; Amber Brooks, Alana Cook, Steph Cox, Celia Jimenez Delgado (Rebecca Quinn 68’); Kristen McNabb, Dani Weatherholt, Shirley Cruz (Bethany Balcer 69’); Jasmyne Spencer (Taylor Smith 55’), Jodie Taylor (Yuka Momiki 81’), Darian Jenkins (Mariah Lee 81’). Subs not used: Casey Murphy, Carly Nelson, Lauren Barnes, Machaela George, Madison Hammond, Adrienne Jordan, Rosie White, Allie Long
By Emmy van Ingen
Photo Credit: Nikki Flores @ Footy Day Photos