DRAPER — Friday night, the top in the Women's Professional Soccer League met a sub-.500 squad, with the league championship already locked up.
The California Ajax had just one loss on the season, while the Utah Spiders had lost four in a row. But in the last game of the season, it was all Spiders for 90 minutes as Utah beat Ajax for the second time, 2-1.
"Ajax plays the best soccer in the league, except for us, when we have all our players," said Spiders coach Marco Rossi. "We beat them twice, and it shows that we could have taken the league if we hadn't had all the problems we did."
Rossi lost two players to marriage this season, three to a European tournament and three more to injuries. Friday, he had a full squad, and it showed.
Utah dominated posession in both halves, holding California to just two shots in the first and four in the second.
Friday's game was a physical contest. Utah's Jenny Christianson and California's Trudie Sharpsteer actually came to blows at one point, and it was no surprise that the Spiders first goal came on a free kick near the end of the first half.
Recent Alta High School graduate Kim Force was near the top of the Ajax box when she was taken down from behind. Bernie Hogan took the free kick, which she placed right in front of Force, who was waiting by the far post. Force tapped it in, and the Spiders took a 1-0 lead.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Force said. "I got a nice ball from my teammate."
The Spiders defense held off California for 80 of the 90 minutes, but with just 10 minutes left, Ajax forward April Colen found herself alone in the Spiders box and tied the game.
It took only two minutes for Utah to respond, as Force came through again to score the game winner.
Force got control of a the rebound after Jackie Krieger hit the crossbar, and fired right over the head of Ajax keeper karen Maha.
The win marked the end of an up and down season for the Spiders, who didn't know mid-season if they would have the money to finish the year. Winning the final game of the season should have been something to celebrate, but it was bittersweet for the Spiders.
"It's very frustrating," Rossi said of the win. "We can play such great soccer. It just bites me that we would not commit more to the season."
Utah finished the year 5-6, Ajax 9-2-1, with both losses to the Spiders.