After Utah Royals FC’s inaugural home match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday afternoon, players and coaches alike beamed at the quickly booming relationship between the club and its fans. There were 19,203 fans in attendance who were treated to an exciting match, as well as other festivities throughout the day surrounding the match that made for a thrilling day in Sandy.
The attendance number was not only the highest of the four NWSL matches over the weekend, but it exceeded that of seven of the weekend’s 11 MLS matches as well. The only clubs that saw larger crowds were Atlanta United (45,001 against NYCFC), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (22,120 against LAFC), the Chicago Fire (21,195 for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s visit with the LA Galaxy) and the Portland Timbers (21,144 in their first home match of the season).
“The environment was unbelievable,” Royals captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “Kudos to Utah for showing up and supporting us. It was something special today and I feel like I was a part of something special. It’s disappointing we didn’t get the win to add to the wonderful day but to play in front of a crowd like that. This is why we play soccer."
Added Kelley O’Hara, “The atmosphere was incredible. We can’t thank the people of Utah enough. Obviously not the result we wanted. We want to give the fans wins every time they come here, especially with the number we got today. That’s my whole focus going forward and I think it’s the team’s as well. I’m hoping it stays that way for the whole season and that we can produce for the fans.”
The result may have left something to be desired, but that didn’t stop the crowd on hand from flocking to the front rows across the west side of the stadium to get autographs, shake hands and offer further support for the players.
One of the last players off the field was Gunny Jónsdóttir, who seemed determined to thank every fan in attendance for their support.
“The fans were awesome. We don’t even have the words to say thank you. I feel like thank you isn’t even enough for all the support we’ve gotten,” she said before offering a message to the supporters. “I hope you come to the next home game and we’ll definitely give you guys a big win then.”
URFC takes to the road this week to face the North Carolina Courage, but returns to Utah for four straight home matches against the Portland Thorns (April 28), Washington Spirit (May 5), Orlando Pride (May 9) and Houston Dash (May 19).