Undefeated No More: Utah Royals hand NC Courage first loss

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CARY, NC - APRIL 08: Courage head coach Paul Riley (ENG). The NWSL's North Carolina Courage played a preseason game against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels on April 8, 2017, at WakeMed Soccer Park Field 3 in Cary, NC. The Courage won the match 1-0. (Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CARY, NORTH CAROLINA (June 16, 2018) — All good things must come to an end.

The ancient proverb was put on display at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday night. The Utah Royals FC handed the formerly undefeated North Carolina Courage their first loss of the season.

Brittany Ratcliffe was the hero for Utah, scoring a late stoppage time goal. After Diana Matheson sent a cross in on a free kick, North Carolina defender Jaelene Hinkle couldn’t clear the ball away.

Undefeated No More: Utah Royals hand NC Courage first loss

Instead, Ratcliffe stole the ball and scored from the top of the box.

Ratcliffe’s goal was the only shot she took in the match. The entire Utah Royals FC team sent eight shots in throughout the night, but only three were on goal.

After the match, Royals FC Head Coach Laura Harvey said that the Royals wanted to “flip the switch” and get at North Carolina on the attack.

“I’m really proud of the players because we decided on Thursday that we were just going to go for it,” Harvey said. “I thought we were still a threat going forward, like towards the end of the game when the subs went on. It was all about trying to restrict what they were doing, but still be a threat when going higher up – and obviously so happy that we could score a goal so late.”

When it came to Ratcliffe’s goal, Harvey admitted that she “lost my mind for 10 seconds” and jumped on assistant coach Scott Parkinson.

“I started asking, ‘How much time is left?’” Harvey said. “Because the thing N.C. is great at is that they can respond quickly. So in some ways, scoring so late was the reason that we were able to get away with a win.”

On the other end, North Carolina Head Coach Paul Riley said that sometimes a team just has to lose.

“We’ll see what we’re made of as a group, and I think it’s good for adversity – you have to have it at some point, and sooner than later, so we can regroup again,” Riley said. “We’ve got great character in the group, and we go on the road now for two really tough games.”

Three Takeaways

  1. Abby Smith is learning control: Utah Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith has struggled during the beginning of the season. The 24-year-old goalkeeper had to adjust to a lot in a short period of time, being one of the lost players after the Boston Breakers folded. However, she found a home in Utah and won the starting job over Nicole Barnhart. Smith, who made four saves against the Courage, looked comfortable and in control.
  2. No easy task: Beating the undefeated team in the NWSL is no easy task. The Courage faced Utah back in April and both teams drew, 2-2. However, this time, the script was flipped due to a passionate effort from Utah.
  3. North Carolina is still the best team in the league: Going undefeated for almost three months in the NWSL is impressive. One loss doesn’t define this team and there’s still a lot of catching up other teams need to do. North Carolina will still sit in first place for a good while — if not the whole season.

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