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Still bothered by outcome vs. Orlando Pride, Utah Royals FC to next face Houston Dash on road

Orlando Pride Marta during the Orlando Pride vs Utah Royals NWSL match Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (Justin Green/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Orlando Pride Marta during the Orlando Pride vs Utah Royals NWSL match Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Orlando City Stadium in Orlando, Fla. (Justin Green/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Justin Green, AP

SANDY — Even if time is supposed to eventually heal all wounds, 2½ days wasn’t enough for Utah Royals FC head coach Laura Harvey.

After her team trained earlier this week at America First Field following its controversial 1-1 draw in the season-opener last Saturday against the Orlando Pride, Harvey was asked if hindsight made things look any better after the Pride’s score came on a penalty kick from Marta in the 21st minute after an incorrect handball call on Becky Sauerbrunn.

“No,” she said. “It doesn’t. When you reduce a team like Orlando to three shots on your goal and (goalkeeper) Abby (Smith) not having to make any exceptional saves, you want to come away with three points.”

In this regard, Harvey and her team surely have company in Friday night’s opponent, the Houston Dash. Entering second-half stoppage time with a 1-0 lead over the Chicago Red Stars last Sunday, the Dash gave up a goal in the first minute of extra play and, like URFC, had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Harvey, who actually made the trip to Houston from Orlando to watch the Dash’s match, hopes that even if her season-opener didn’t end up the way she wanted, that at least her group can build on the good things that happened and also improve offensively.

“Another away game, another tough place, it’s going to be hot again,” she said. “We’ve got to go down there, prepare right and make sure that we have the same mentality and work ethic defensively and just try and be a little better when we have the ball.”

Midfielder Gunny Jonsdottir, who scored URFC’s only goal against the Pride in the third minute, said, “I think for the next couple games, it’s just building that chemistry, both offensively and defensively. We did well in Orlando, but there’s a lot of things to work on. I think we look at the positive sides of that game and take that with us to Houston, and then the things we need to work, we just have to improve in Houston and hope to finish the game there.”

That could prove to be challenging, as Utah will be without two players who were in the starting 11 in the season opener. Most notably, defender Kelley O'Hara will be out because of a left hamstring strain, while forward Elise Thorsnes is still dealing with a concussion she suffered against the Pride.

The Dash, which finished the 2017 campaign eighth in the then-10-team NWSL, brought in Vera Pauw during the offseason to be its new head coach, with Harvey saying that the Netherlands native “has definitely brought in a work ethic and a mentality to be hard to beat. They’re going to be tough on their home ground. Picking up a point when I’m sure they were disappointed not to get three at the weekend gives them a good platform, I think.”

Former Alta High star Kealia Ohai, who has three caps with the U.S. Women’s National Team and is the Dash’s captain, tore her ACL last season and missed the season-opener last weekend. She is not on the injury report for this week, although her status for the match is uncertain.

Houston will also be without another USWNT member, Christen Press, after she announced this week that she’ll play in Sweden the next few months following a standoff with the Dash that saw her not report to training camp.

Start time for Friday's contest is set for 6 p.m. MT.