Orlando, Florida (April 29, 2019) — It doesn’t matter how many defenders are around her. Some how, some way, Christen Press is going to find a way to get the ball in the back of the net.
According to Laura Harvey, it’s why the Utah Royals FC traded for her. Last season, Press joined the Royals in the middle of the season. A dispute between Press and her new club, the Houston Dash, resulted in Press journeying to Sweden. However, she returned to the NWSL with a chip on her shoulder.
Christen Press scores game-winning goal in Utah Royals victory
Press picked up where she left off on Saturday night. In the 19th minute, on the road, Press controlled the ball with three defenders around her. However, despite the commotion, Press slotted the ball past the defense and goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer. After the match, Harvey said that Press just understands the game.
“She creates opportunities for other players and scores goals for herself,” Harvey said. “She’s kicking herself that she didn’t score more, that’s her. Amy Rodriguez and Katie Stengel are the same way. It says a lot about our team that we come away with a win and still think we should’ve scored two or three more. I don’t think I remember [Nicole] Barnhart making any incredible saves — just off crosses. This group has something special about it and Press sets the tone for that.”
Press’ goal earned Utah another three points. While some clubs have already featured in four or five matches, Utah has only featured in two matches. With nine clubs in the league, there’s a club that has off every weekend. Utah had the first bye-week of the NWSL season.
However, in two matches the Royals have earned two consecutive shutouts.
“Orlando threw a lot at us,” defender Becky Sauerbrunn said. “I thought Barnhart did amazing especially on free kicks and corner kicks and I thought we were scrappy at times. We take a lot of pride in getting the clean sheet and with these clean sheets we set the tone and hopefully while the internationals are gone they can carry it on.”
Taking pride in what we do! ? pic.twitter.com/2Cj8Wv0fjl
— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) April 28, 2019
Marc Skinner says that consistency is missing
While the Royals celebrated another victory, the Orlando Pride were left scrambling for answers. Granted, the Pride haven’t had the easiest schedule to start the season. However, Orlando is currently sitting in last place with one draw and three losses.
After the match, Marc Skinner, Pride first-year head coach, said that his team is missing consistency.
“First half, again, we’re talking halves at the minute, and first half — far too passive,” Skinner said. “Didn’t affect the ball enough. I mean the goal is a ridiculous goal, it’s a ridiculous goal. We can’t concede things like that and hope to build the foundations that we need to go forward so we have to affect that.”
Skinner also mentioned that after the match, he talked to his players about accountability. With stars like Alex Morgan, Marta and Alanna Kennedy on the roster, there is a certain expectation. However, the star power has yet to yield a single league win this season.
“The players must be accountable for that because no coach in the world can stop that goal going in,” Skinner said. “Second half we looked much better but we were just out of the game by that. We give teams too many leads and that’s what we need to fix.”
"It's a no excuse culture, we have to create that." pic.twitter.com/08zWEU58w4
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) April 29, 2019
Both teams will say farewell to their U.S. Women’s National Team players. Those players bound for the FIFA Women’s World Cup will depart from the league until the end of the tournament — or the end of the group stage, depending on how well teams fare.
Morgan and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris — who missed out on the match due to a warmup injury — are likely booking their ticket to France. Ali Krieger is currently on the cusp, hoping to hear her name announced on Jill Ellis’ roster. Meanwhile, for the Royals, Press and Sauerbrunn are certainly looking to put another stamp in their passport.
Meanwhile, Kelley O’Hara has the opportunity to feature in France. The defender has been dealing with injuries for the last year and a half. She entered the match in Orlando during the 57th minute, earning some minutes before the roster announcement.
As for league play, the Royals will return home to Rio Tinto Stadium to host the Chicago Red Stars on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, the Pride will look for their first victory of the season against the Houston Dash, at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.