Utah Royals FC blanks Sky Blue FC, 3-0; Christen Press scores twice

USA Utah News

Sandy • Veronica Boquete expressed the mood around the team entering Wednesday’s match against Sky Blue FC — a game she described as the most important of the season.

“We’re gonna die for 3 points,” Boquete wrote in an Instagram story Wednesday morning.

Well, Utah Royals FC isn’t dead. Not yet. With the most complete performance in recent memory, the Royals put themselves back in the mix for a playoff berth and shook off some of the cobwebs the team has dealt with for the past several weeks.

Midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta and forward Christen Press connected for two sequences that led directly to goals by Press, and Amy Rodriguez added one to lift the Royals to a 3-0 win over Sky Blue FC in front of 7,715 fans Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

LaBonta joked that she made a team official carry her into the media room because “we literally left everything out there.”

She walked away after her interview carrying three bottles of water.

The do-or-die sentiment was felt throughout the team, throughout the week of training. Rodriguez said the team felt as though Wednesday’s game was a “must-win.”

“We decided before the game that we were going to leave it all out there,” Rodriguez said. “[Coach] Laura [Harvey] had said we need to be ruthless, on our front foot, do not stop. And I think that’s what you saw tonight and I think that’s why we walked way with three points.”

Press got things going in the 27th minute. A buildup led to LaBonta receiving the ball in the midfield and going forward into space. She found Press with a through ball that was defected into the forward’s path, and Press put it away.

Two minutes later, Mallory Weber switched the point of attack to a streaking LaBonta, who put a cross right around the penalty spot as Press ran onto it for the finish.

Harvey said she was particularly impressed with the team being able to score the second one so quickly because it hasn’t been able to do that much at all this season.

Harvey also said carrying that momentum and scoring so early into the second half was like something out of a perfectly planned game plan.

“To actually finish it, and a clean sheet,” Harvey said, “you couldn’t have written it any better.”

Not long after the second half started, Rodriguez put her goal-scoring stamp on the game.

Weber, who has played the last two games at outside back, moved all the way into the attacking third and passed to Rodriguez, who turned and found the back of the net in a fluid motion, providing the final score.

The win snapped the six-game winless streak the Royals had entering the game.

Harvey said the hardest games lately have been the last three because she felt the team played well enough to win all of them. And not coming away with points has been weighing on the team more and more as each week has gone by.

“I don’t think we’re in a scenario where we have to win every game,” Harvey said. “But we had to come out tonight and win.”

Utah is now sixth in the National Women’s Soccer League standings with nine games remaining in the regular season.

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