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Utah Royals FC gives up pair of first-half goals in 2-0 loss to Reign FC

SANDY — It’s been a rare sight for Utah Royals FC to give up multiple goals in a game during the 2019 season. It happened for just the third time Friday.

On a night where URFC could have taken over the top spot in the National Women’s Soccer League standings, though, the Royals gave up a pair of first-half goals and fell 2-0 to Reign FC at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“We weren’t good enough. From minute 1 to minute 90, we were beaten by a better team. We were slow, lethargic, we didn’t have any spark,” Royals head coach Laura Harvey said.

Jessica Fishlock opened the scoring in the 30th minute, notching her third goal in as many games on the return from teammate Bethany Balcer and scoring on the right side.

In the 35th minute, Fishlock came up with the assist, finding a wide-open Ifeoma Onumonu in the box and Onumonu put the ball in the back of the net.

“This game’s a lot about mentality as much as it is about physicality and tactics and all of that stuff. I think we often set the tone really well in games. It doesn’t matter if you score or not, but set the tone, and we didn’t. They did, we didn’t, and we never recovered from that, I don’t think,” Harvey said.

URFC (5-2-3), with 17 points, trailed the top-place Washington Spirit by just a point heading into the match, giving the Royals a chance to leap atop the NWSL table before the Spirit host the North Carolina Courage on Saturday.

Reign FC (4-1-5), though, stayed unbeaten in its past seven games, with four wins and three draws. The win also moved Reign into a tie with URFC in the standings and also kept them unbeaten all-time against URFC (3-0-1).

Harvey said the tone for the night was set before the game even started.

“I’m very superstitious, get really involved in how the feeling is. I knew before the game. In the warmup, pregame, we just didn’t have that spark about us," she said.

The Royals had a chance to finally get on the scoreboard in the 94th minute when Katie Stengel shot a header high towards the goal. Reign FC goalkeeper Casey Murphy stretched high, though, and blocked away the shot on goal, the Royals’ last shot to score.

Murphy and Royals goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart had a pair of saves each, as Reign FC had four shots on goal to URFC's two. The Royals also never had a corner kick on the night, while Reign FC had eight.

The Royals, who fell to 4-2-1 at home this season, will look to rebound in two weeks when they travel to face Sky Blue FC on July 12.

“I think ultimately we just weren’t good enough. We didn’t fight hard enough, we were spread out, we weren’t connecting passes well and it just wasn’t a good night for us,” URFC midfielder Mandy Laddish said.