In a game where both teams were hoping for three points, a draw between Utah Royals FC and Portland Thorns FC left both teams feeling relieved and frustrated. With the point, Portland has moved momentarily into first place in the National Women's Soccer League while Utah is stuck in fifth.
A scrappy game is brought to life by goals
It was clear from the outset that Utah head coach Laura Harvey was looking for three points at home. The Royals brought out a starting lineup that included all three of their players from the United States' women's national team while Portland started just two of their four.
Unfortunately for Utah, the Thorns showed up ready to play. After a brief spell of offensive possession for the Royals, Portland got on the front foot. Thorns forward Christine Sinclair was presented with a bouncing ball just outside of the box, and she opted to take a shot from distance. She chested the ball down, and Utah midfielder Lo'eau Labonta couldn't close her down fast enough to challenge her shot. The shot lazily curled towards the top-left corner of goal and past the outstretched arms of Utah goalkeeper Nichole Barnhart for the first goal of the match. It took just nine minutes for Portland to take a 1-0 lead in Utah.
As the game wore on, Utah became more and more comfortable in the attack. With the clock ticking towards halftime, and after Utah was forced to make a substitute due to injury, the game would equalize. After a long pass, USWNT forward Christen Press collected the ball outside of the box on the left side of goal. She opted to attack the Portland defender directly, sending the ball between her ankles to face up with goal. Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch had good position at the near post with Press on the ball, but the shot caught her off-guard, and Press scored the first goal of the match for Utah in the 43rd minute.
A late surge saves the point for Utah
The second half played out with Utah firmly in control of the match. They had a multitude of attacking opportunities, something that hasn't been said of the team lately. After scoring just once in the last five games, the Royals seemed constantly like they were on the verge of scoring the go-ahead goal in this match, but it just wouldn't come. Portland goalkeeper Franch was able to deny the hopes and dreams of the Utah forwards, and the clock slowly ticked towards a 1-1 final scoreline.
Then, in the 87th minute, Portland took the lead against the run of play. Defender Meghan Klingenberg took a free kick from about 40 yards away from goal. The ball was able to land inside the 18-yard box, and midfielder Lindsey Horan took a quick hack at the ball. Her shot was initially deflected wide, but Utah defender Becky Sauerbrunn was in an unlucky position. The shot ricocheted off of her foot and into the left side of goal, but Nichole Barhart had gone the other way. The goal was officially recorded as a Sauerbrunn own goal.
Utah entered desperation mode after conceding. Just three minutes later they would equalize. Utah defender Kelley O'Hara collected the ball just past midfield and sent a long cross into the box. The ball was able to fall right to the foot of fellow defender Rachel Corsie, who slowly rolled the ball past Franch and into the back of the net. The team and the crowd went wild, and they were immediately desperate to score again.
With Portland stunned, Utah nearly scored twice more before the final whistle blew. The first attempt came from Amy Rodriguez, who sent a shot toward the top of goal, but Franch was up to the task. Then one minute later, Katie Stengel was denied of a low shot by Franch.
The draw pushed Portland into first place in the standings, and the team is scheduled to host the Houston Dash on Wednesday. For Utah, one point pushed them into a tie with the Washington Spirit for fourth place. Utah will host the North Carolina Courage next Saturday.