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CARY, N.C. — Brittany Ratcliffe is starting to like playing in North Carolina.
The orange bow-clad Royals striker scored a goal in the Utah Royals FC’s 2-2 draw with the Courage nearly two months ago — and head coach Laura Harvey brought her off the bench in the 77th minute for Utah.
Ratcliffe scored a goal in the final minute of stoppage time, and the expansion Utah Royals handed league-leading North Carolina Courage their first loss of the season, 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.
“North Carolina is a great team. It’s always hard coming here and playing them,” said Ratcliffe, whose two goals in 2018 have both come at WakeMed Soccer Park. “But we stayed in it, played our game, got our chances and finished one.
“They are a great team, but I’m glad we got the W today.”
With the win, Utah (4-5-2, 17 points) jumped to fourth place in the NWSL table with the first consecutive win streak of the season.
“We came here and said we wanted to go for it, to try to win the game,” Harvey told the live stream on KSL.com after the match.
“A lot of teams come here and try to bunker in. But we went after them in the first half, and did things well. In the second half, we stuck to our game plan, kept pushing and even in the end … we went for it, and it paid off.”
Goalkeeper Abby Smith made three saves to earn the shutout for Utah in her first start since returning from U.S. women's national team training camp.
North Carolina (9-1-2, 30 points) controlled possession in the first half, but Smith made two saves to keep the match level at the break.
Smith, who made her first start since joining head coach Jill Ellis at U.S. women’s national team camp, made a point-blank save on an attempt from Courage striker Jessica MacDonald in the final minutes of the half to keep it scoreless.
North Carolina out-shot the Royals 15-8, including a 4-3 edge in shots on goal. But none of that mattered when Ratcliffe sent a right-footed shot following a set piece into the top left corner of the net for a massive three points for Utah.
“It happened so fast,” Ratcliffe said. “But it was great to get the free kick, and a great ball served into the ball. I just kind of shot it, and it went in.”
Utah plays at Chicago Red Stars at 6 p.m. MDT Saturday, June 23, at Toyota Park. The match will be streamed live on KSL.com and the KSL TV app.
North Carolina will look to rebound from its first loss of the season June 23 at 2 p.m. MDT at Seattle Reign FC.