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Utah Royals draw 1-1 with Orlando in franchise opener

By KSL Sports | Posted - Mar 24th, 2018 @ 8:59pm



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ORLANDO, Fla. — One match. One point.

Utah's first professional women's soccer team debuted Saturday afternoon in the Sunshine State, earning a 1-1 draw with the Orlando Pride in front of an announced crowd of 9,017 fans at Orlando City Stadium.

Gunny Jonsdottir scored the Royals' first goal in franchise history just three minutes into the match. The Icelandic international cruised toward the goal after a cross provided by Canadian international Diana Matheson and redirected the match's first goal in the third minute.

“I’m just like, go Gunny! That’s what she does. We even talked about that before the game," Royals outside back Kelley O'Hara said after the match. “She did it in the third minute, and it was pretty cool for her to score her first goal in her first NWSL game. Hopefully she has more of those to come this season.”

But the lead didn't last long.

Orlando City equalized via penalty kick about 17 minutes later from Marta Vieira da Silva — or "Marta," for short. The five-time FIFA women's footballer of the year ripped a shot from the penalty spot down the chute past Utah goalkeeper Abby Smith in the 20th minute, and the two teams played to a 1-1 halftime draw.

Marta's goal came as a controversial pass caromed off the face of Utah defender Becky Sauerbrunn. The Royals team captain took the ball off her face, but apparently had it carom off her upper arm since the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

Utah's first-ever starting XI included Smith, Sauerbrunn and Jonsdottir, as well as Rebecca Moros, newly signed defender Rachel Corsie, U.S. star O'Hara, Katie Bowen, Desiree Scott, Elise Thorsnes and striker Brittany Ratcliffe, who lined up in a 4-5-1 formation.

Utah plays at the Houston Dash next Friday, March 30, before returning home Saturday, April 14, at 1:30 p.m. MDT against the Chicago Red Stars.

“Orlando is tough to play away," Sauerbrunn said. "For the first game, I think we should be really proud with what we came out with.”

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