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Utah Royals draw with Portland after a wild finish in USWNT players' first game back from the World Cup

SANDY — Friday’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium was marketed as a showcase of stars of the World Cup.

The Utah Royals and their opponents, the Portland Thorns, came through. The match had four goals — all scored by players who have recently returned from the World Cup — but in the end the two teams drew 2-2, but not before a lot of last-minute drama.

The Royals fell behind twice to the league-leading Thorns, but each time replied to salvage a point from the contest.

Nearly 16,000 fans watched Christen Press (returned recently from the United States Women’s National Team) and Rachel Corsie (Scotland) score for URFC while Christine Sinclair (Canada) and Lindsey Horan (USWNT) found the net for Portland.

Members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team are honored before the Utah Royals FC play the Portland Thorns FC in a soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, July 19, 2019. The final score was 2-2.
Members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team are honored before the Utah Royals FC play the Portland Thorns FC in a soccer game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, July 19, 2019. The final score was 2-2.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“It feels good,” URFC captain and USWNT starter Becky Sauerbrunn told the fans after the game. “Thanks so much for coming here and supporting us. There was a lot of drama, but hopefully everyone had a lot of fun.”

The drama came from a late controversial goal by Portland and an even later goal from and unlikely Utah player.

Despite the Royals outshooting Portland 9-1 in the second half, the Thorns scored on a disputed goal in the 87th minute. Royals head coach Laura Harvey said the goal should have been disallowed due to offsides.

“That goal was a bit of a sucker punch,” Harvey said.

The Royals responded with barrage of shots, finally scoring when Kelley O’Hara’s cross found a sliding Corsie. The Scottish central defender scored her first goal in a Royals uniform.

“We’re disappointed not to take all three (points),” Corsie said. “That’s disappointing to draw at home, but (scoring late), it feels like a boost.”

With so many players playing their first game with their club in several weeks, the first part of the game felt disjointed, but the Thorns drew first blood on an excellent volley from outside the box by Sinclair that found the top far-post corner of the net in the ninth minute. It was a bit of bad luck for the Royals as they had just lost midfielder Mandy Laddish to an injury and were playing a player down.

The Royals eventually found their footing and started creating several chances late in the game.

In the 42nd minute, the home team equalized when Gunnhildur Jonsdotter found Press with a long pass. Press nutmegged her defender and then beat USWNT goalkeeper Adrianna Franch with a hard shot near post.

“There was moment where the other team thought I was going to cross it, so there was an opening,” Press said about her goal.

“There were moments where we were the team we think we can be,” Press said after the game. “We struggled to find that form early in the game. It was good feeling overall even though the result wasn’t what we wanted."