Reign FC fell 3-1 to Utah Royals FC in front of 5,939 at Cheney Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Forward Katie Stengel got the Royals on the board with an early goal, scoring in the 4th minute after a shot from forward Amy Rodriguez was stopped by Reign FC keeper Casey Murphy, but fell to the feet of Stengel who was perched just off the goal line and delivered the easy finish.
Despite giving up an early goal, Reign FC went into halftime level with Utah Royals FC, thanks to forward Shea Groom’s strike in the 41st minute. Groom pounced a loose ball in the box, blasting it past Royals goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and into the back of the net to even the match 1-1. Groom celebrated on the field by pointing to her teammates watching in the stands, and continued the celebration with Reign FC players on the bench.
The goal was Groom’s second of the season and earned her Player of the Match honors.
“This team goes much further than the eleven that are on the field at any given time,” said Groom. “There are so many integral parts of this team. It was a celebration for everyone that got me to that point, and that believed in me, and never lost faith.”
In the second half, Utah Royals FC took control of the match. In the 59th minute, Lo'eau LaBonta received the ball just over the halfway line, made a run through the center of the pitch into the Reign FC box and calmly fired the ball past Murphy to give Utah a 2-1 lead. In the 67th minute Utah forward Katie Stengel fired a shot from outside the box that was saved by Murphy, but the deflection fell to the feet of Amy Rodriguez, who finished easily to give Utah a 3-1 lead.
Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski appreciated the first 58 minutes of the match, indicating that the defense played well until Royals midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta dribbled through traffic and scored unassisted in the 59th minute to collect Utah’s second goal of the match.
“It was a decent game until the second goal,” said Andonovski. “Up until when we allowed the second goal I thought we were organized and disciplined. We denied them from creating opportunities and then a mistake on our goal kick, we allowed a player to dribble 50 yards down to score a goal. That’s something that’s unacceptable.”
Reign FC centerback and captain, Lauren Barnes is not concerned about the squad’s ability to recover from the tough result.
“I’m not worried about this team with (the ability to recover from tough results),” said Barnes. “We’ve done a great job sticking together, staying together and being strong. We’ve got two big road games and we’re excited about them. Hopefully we get our rest, get back out there, work hard and show up for the next game.”
Reign FC are on the road against Sky Blue FC on Sunday, August 18 at 10:00 a.m. PT. at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. The match will air on ESPNews. The club won its first meeting with Sky Blue FC at home on May 18. Reign FC returns home to Cheney Stadium on Saturday, September 7 to host the Orlando Pride at 7 p.m. PT.