URFC ties Orlando in first-ever NWSL match

ORLANDO (Saturday, March 24, 2018) – Utah Royals FC (0-0-1, 1 point) settled for a 1-1 draw with the Orlando Pride in the club’s inaugural match at Orlando City Stadium on Saturday.  MF Gunnhildur Jonsdottir scored the historic first goal in club history as Royals FC took the lead in the third minute, only to have a dubious penalty allow the home team to draw level midway through the first half.  GK Abby Smith finished the night with two saves to preserve the draw as Utah’s defensive shape and discipline dictated the run of play.
In just the third minute, Icelandic international Jonsdottir put Utah on the board, hitting a sliding right-footed shot off a scintillating cross from Canadian star MF Diana Matheson for the first-ever goal in club history.  Orlando equalized in controversial fashion just 18 minutes later, when a shot from Dani Weatherholt struck DF Becky Sauerbrunn in the face.  The referee awarded a penalty, as the U.S. captain was adjudged to have intentionally handled the ball in the box. Brazilian legend Marta converted the penalty to equalize at 1-1 in the 21st minute.  Smith would later make a tremendous stop on a shot from Alex Morgan to keep the match level and that’s how they went into halftime.
In a back-and-forth second half, the best URFC opportunity came in stoppage time, when Jonsdottir hammered a volley from the edge of the 18. Her shot skimmed just over the crossbar and the match finished 1-1, despite a late penalty shout for Utah when DF Kelley O’Hara was taken down just inside the area at the death.
UP NEXT: Utah Royals FC travel again next week, with one more road match at Houston Dash on Friday, March 30 (6 p.m. MT; KMYU TV / KSL app / KSL.com / 100.7 FM) before a FIFA international break. Then, on Saturday, April 14, Utah hosts the Chicago Red Stars in the club’s inaugural home opener on Saturday, April 14 at Rio Tinto Stadium (1:30 p.m. MT; Lifetime Game of the Week).  Tickets are available by calling 844-REAL-TIX (844-732-5849) or online at www.UtahRoyalsFC.com/tickets.
UTA: Gunnhildur Jonsdottir (Diana Matheson), 3 – History was made with just 2:13 on the clock when Utah Royals FC scored the first goal in club history.  Matheson – playing in her first league game since the 2016 NWSL Championship match – curled a left-footed cross on a cutback from the right side as Jonsdottir got in behind the Orlando defense, hitting a sliding right-footed shot past GK Ashlyn Harris for a 1-0 lead.
ORL: Marta (PK), 21 – After a disputed penalty call, Marta slotted her left-footed shot inside the right post – despite GK Abby Smith guessing the right way – to equalize at 1-1.
UTA: Abby Smith, 28’ – FW Alex Morgan got in behind the Utah defense up the right side, but her shot from inside the box was snared by a diving Smith to keep the match level at 1-1.
UTA: Abby Smith, 46 – FW Sydney Leroux made a run up the left side, but her touch got away from her as Smith smothered the chance before Leroux could get a shot away.
- DF Becca Moros made the Utah club’s historic “first touch” early in the match, while Jonsdottir’s goal and Matheson’s assist also made history … Captain Sauerbrunn’s phantom yellow card will always be remembered in the club history books, while FW Katie Stengel was the club’s first-ever substitution (62’) … FW Taylor Lytle (64’) and DF Sydney Miramontez (81’) also appeared off the bench in the Claret-and-Cobalt’s first-ever game.
- Utah played without DF Alex Arlitt (left knee strain), MF Mandy Laddish (right hip contusion) and FW Amy Rodriguez (right knee) due to injury and MF Katrina Gorry, who is away on international duty with Australia.
- Both of Utah Royals FC’s fellow professional teams under the Claret-and-Cobalt club umbrella also earned valuable road points in their inaugural matches: Real Salt Lake drew 0-0 at Giants Stadium in April, 2005 against the MetroStars, while Real Monarchs SLC drew 0-0 at LA Galaxy II in March, 2015
- Eight of Utah’s 11 internationals appeared in the club’s inaugural starting XI: Kelley O’Hara / Becky Sauerbrunn (USA – 2), Desiree Scott / Diana Matheson (Canada – 2), Rachel Corsie (Scotland), Gunny Jonsdottir (Iceland), Katie Bowen (New Zealand) and Elise Thorsnes (Norway) … Katrina Gorry (Australia), Amy Rodriguez (USA) and Maegan Kelly (Canada) did not appear
- Two players, both from Scandinavia – Jonsdottir and Thorsnes – made their NWSL debuts.
Match: Utah Royals FC at Orlando Pride
Date: March 24, 2018
Venue: Orlando City Stadium; Orlando, Florida
Attendance: 9,017
Weather: Clear and 68
Scoring Summary:           1              2              F 
Utah Royals FC                  1              0              1
Orlando Pride                    1              0              1
UTA: Gunnhildur Jonsdottir (Diana Matheson) 3’
ORL: Marta (PK) 21’
Utah Royals FC (4-3-3): Abby Smith; Kelley O’Hara, Rachel Corsie, Becky Sauerbrunn (C), Becca Moros; Desiree Scott, Gunnhildur Jonsdottir, Katie Bowen; Diana Matheson (Taylor Lytle 64’), Brittany Ratcliffe (Sydney Miramontez 81’), Elise Thorsnes (Katie Stengel 62’).
Subs not used: Nicole Barnhart, Erika Tymrak, Brooke Elby, Lo’eau LaBonta.
Orlando Pride (4-3-3): Ashlyn Harris (C); Carson Pickett, Shelina Zadorsky, Ali Krieger, Poliana (Monica Hickmann Alves 66’); Toni Pressley (Rachel Hill 73’), Christine Nairn, Dani Weatherholt; Sydney Leroux, Marta, Alex Morgan (Chioma Ubogagu 46’).
Subs not used: Kristen Edmonds, Danica Evans, Rachel Hill, Haley Kopmeyer, Lotta Okvist.
Stats Summary: UTA / ORL
Shots: 6 / 7
Shots on Goal: 2 / 3
Saves: 0 / 0
Corner Kicks: 0 / 0
Fouls: 9 / 14
Offside: 0 / 0
UTA: Becky Sauerbrunn (caution) 21’
UTA: Brittany Ratcliffe (caution) 59’
ORL: Ali Krieger (caution) 93+’
Referee: Danielle Chesky
Assistant Referee 1: Trent Vanhaitsma
Assistant Referee 2: Gjovalin Bori
Fourth Official: Miguel Martes