Cheney Stadium was the stage once again for Reign FC on Sunday. Some 72 hours after their massive win over rival Portland Thorns FC, Vlatko Andonovski’s squad hosted the Utah Royals FC and their familiar coach (and Reign FC’s inaugural head coach) Laura Harvey.
The Sunday afternoon affair saw goals for both sides, but Harvey’s squad scored more goals than Reign FC and took all the points in their first visit to Cheney Stadium.
Utah opened the scoring in the 3rd minute when Amy Rodriguez went down the right flank, nutmegged Reign FC defender Lauren Barnes and got off a shot that hit the woodwoork. The deflection was a very fortunate one, as it landed right in front of forward Katie Stengel and she bumped it in for her side to strike first.
Through thirty minutes of the first half, Utah had the advantage beyond the scoreline. Their constant pressure whenever Reign FC had the ball disrupted their timing and Andonovski’s side wasn’t able to build their attack. They were able to settle in and options became available after the half hour mark as both Bethany Blacer and Jodie Taylor managed to get some looks and shots, albeit wide ones.
It was at least encouraging that the field was starting to open up for them and the patience paid off in the 41st minute when Shea Groom got in a thunderstrike past Utah’s goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to equalize. It was her second goal on the season.
For the 5,939 fans in attendance, Groom’s goal was hopefully the momentum swing that would see Reign FC come out of the halftime break stronger. However, nine minutes into the second half, an uncharacteristic and inexcusable moment resulted in a second Utah goal and proved to be the pivotal moment of the match.
Lo’eau LaBonta received a Casey Murphy goal kick and ran straight down the middle of the field, virtually unchecked, to slide the ball past Murphy’s left for the goal in the 55th minute.
Andonovski said after the match of LaBonta’s goal, “We denied them from creating opportunities and then a mistake on our goal kick, we allowed a player to dribble 50 yards down to score a goal. That’s something that’s unacceptable.”
Utah would get their third goal in the 67th minute when Stengel sent in a curling effort from distance. While Murphy was able to stop it, she wasn’t able to secure it down, allowing Rodriguez to flash in behind Barnes and put away the second-chance opportunity and put the match on ice.
The loss is the second time this season Reign FC have been defeated at Cheney Stadium. You can say with both losses, the team was anything but a team. Like Andonovski said after the victory against Portland this past Wednesday, individually they may not be better than their opponents in player versus player matchup. The team must click and fire on all cylinders, and on this Sunday afternoon, it was not the case. After Utah’s two goals in the second half, Reign FC were just sending long balls down the field, hoping to create something out of nothing.
Despite the loss, Reign FC remain in fourth place, the final playoff qualification spot. Utah’s win does bring their point total to 24 points, just two shy of Reign FC. With eight matches to go and results elsewhere in the league, first and fourth position in the standings is only a six point gap.
So yes, every match and every result Reign FC can get the rest of the way matters. As does watching the scoreboard.
Reign FC hit the road for their next match, going to Sky Blue FC. Originally, the match was going to be played at Sky Blue FC’s home of Yurcak Field at Rutgers University. However the venue has changed to Red Bull Arena, home of Major League Soccer’s Red Bull New York. The match will also see Reign FC back under the bright lights of an ESPN broadcast, with it being on ESPNEWS. The broadcast is scheduled for Sunday, August 18 with an 10 AM PST start time.