The Utah Royals fell to the Chicago Red Stars 2-0 Saturday in front of a a sold-out crowd in the Royals’ first match since returning to Utah.

The loss was Utah’s first game since Oct. 17, 2020 — a 2-0 loss to Seattle — before the team relocated to Kansas City following the team’s sale later that year.

After a scoreless first half, Chicago started their attack early in the second with a goal from Ally Schlegel that got past Utah goalkeeper Carly Nelson to take the lead in the 50th minute of the match.

Utah’s Hannah Betfort had a chance to score the equalizer in both the 54th and 59th minutes but was denied by Chicago goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who is coming off a stellar Gold Cup performance for the U.S. — the highlight being her three penalty kick saves and converting a kick of her own in the semifinal match against Canada.

Head coach Amy Rodriguez called Naeher, who also blocked a shot from this year’s No. 1 overall pick Ally Sentnor in the 68th minute, the difference maker in Saturday night’s match.

“Credit to Chicago and Alyssa Naeher tonight,” Rodriguez said in her postgame press conference. “We were unable to get it past her, and she showed up huge for them and kept them in the game, and in moments where we probably should have scored or could have scored, she denied us and that kept her team in the game. So I think that was the difference maker for Chicago.”

In the 76th minute, Chicago’s Ava Cook put the final nail in the coffin, increasing the lead to 2-0.

Rodriguez, who is in her first stint as a head coach, refrained from making any substitutions until the 69th minute, when Brecken Mozingo, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, and Cameron Tucker entered the game, and later Ify Onumonu in the 88th minute. Onumonu gave Utah its closest chance of the evening with a shot Naeher tipped over the net in stoppage time.

“Brecken Mozingo is a game-changer, and we thought she was going to be able to do that for us tonight,” Rodriguez said of her subs. “She went out and made some really great impact — Ify as well, Cam Tucker as well.”

Up next, Utah plays the North Carolina Courage at home on Friday at 7:30 p.m. MDT. The Courage are coming off a 5-1 win over the Houston Dash.

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Which USWNT players played in Utah Royals vs. Chicago Red Stars?

In addition to Naeher, another prominent member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team started against Utah: Chicago star forward Mallory Swanson.

Saturday marked Swanson’s return to the pitch after a season-ending injury. Swanson tore her patellar tendon last April in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland. Despite missing most of the year, she finished as the national team’s leading scorer in 2023 with seven goals in six games, according to Pro Soccer Wire.

Which Utah connections played for the Utah Royals on Saturday?

Nelson was the only player with a Utah connection to start Saturday’s match. Nelson was born in Lindon, Utah, and played 63 matches for the University of Utah.

Former BYU Cougars Mozingo and Tucker added to the Utah connections when they entered the game as second-half subs.

The Utah Royals’ return to Utah

The team originally played in Utah from 2018 to 2020 before being sold to an ownership group consisting of investment bankers Chris and Angie Long and Brittany Mahomes, the wife of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who then moved the team to Kansas City.

In 2023, the NWSL announced the Royals would return to Utah in 2024 under the ownership of David Blitzer and Ryan Smith — and Olympic skiing legend Lindsey Vonn recently joined the ownership group. In a press conference prior to the match, Vonn called investing in the Royals the “biggest and best opportunity I have to support local women.”

Through the Royals and her foundation, the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, Vonn will send 25 underserved girls in the community to every Royals home match.