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North Carolina rallies, finally finds a way to beat Utah Royals

SANDY — For the past 1 1/2 seasons the North Carolina Courage have dominated every team in the NWSL, except one: the Utah Royals.

That streak ended Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium as the defending champions rallied to beat the Royals 2-1.

It was North Carolina’s first win over the Utah Royals in its fifth attempt.

Kristen Hamilton and Jessica McDonald both scored as NCC kept pace with first-place Portland, staying one point back. The Royals remain at 18 points, two points adrift of the final playoff spot.

"I thought that the goals we gave away, we didn't make them work for it," Royals head coach Laura Harvey said. "You know with them that you could get put under a lot of pressure, you could have to deal with a lot of balls in the box. I don't think we did."

URFC started the game off strong and Christen Press put the Royals ahead in the 13th minute. She took a pass from Vero Boquete, cut inside and beat goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.

Press has now scored or provided an assist in all four games she’s played for URFC this season.

After taking the lead, the Courage did a good job killing the game off until Katie Stengel came into the game, quickly giving the Royals some offensive punch. Kelley O’Hara nearly scored on a long-rang effort in the 73rd minute.

Harvey subbed on two more offensive-minded players, but to no avail. Press nearly caught Labbe on the near post in the 95th minute, but that was as close as URFC came to an equalizer.

It was a disappointing result for the Royals, who started with a first-choice lineup for the first time this season.

The Royals now embark on a stretch of playing four of their next five games on the road, starting with a trip to Chicago to face the Red Stars on Aug. 3.