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SANDY — After Wednesday night’s uneventful scoreless draw with Seattle Reign FC, new Utah Royals FC striker Christen Press made something of a promise.
"You build trust by finishing chances," Press said Wednesday after just two training sessions with her new club. "Today was ground-zero, and we’ll move up from here."
Press' start in the Beehive State rocketed skyward Saturday night with a goal and an assist — and that was just 25 minutes in.
Katie Stengel scored twice, and Press' fast start helped Utah to a 3-1 win over winless Sky Blue FC in front of 8,400 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium.
"You struggle a little before opening the account," Press said. "But goals come in waves, and you’ve got to ride them when they are coming. Hopefully from here we can continue to put on good performances, and get good results for the team."
Utah coach Laura Harvey was impressed by the professionalism of Press, who has 44 goals in 100 international appearances and has played 180 minutes since joining the squad in the past week.
"She just got here and played two 90 minutes so quickly, and I’m really proud of her for that," Harvey said of Press. "We got through it without injury, but now we’ve got to get ourselves ready and prepared for Portland next week."
Highlights here! @UtahRoyalsFC scored three to earn them three points at home over @SkyBlueFC ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/QJUVbJXwhE— NWSL (@NWSL) July 1, 2018
Press opened the scoring with a cheeky goal just seven minutes in. But the U.S. international standout who recently returned to the National Women's Soccer League was just getting started on a night when the Royals (5-3-6, 21 points) out-shot the visitors 11-5 and converted three of five chances on goal.
Press set up the second goal in the 25th minute, sending a through-ball into the area that Stengel, who was making a rare start, chipped over Sky Blue goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan for the 2-0 advantage.
"It's a three-game week, and I think there had to be some rotations eventually," Stengel said of the start and instant impact. "I was just waiting and hoping to be ready when my name was called."
Stengel doubled her tally less than five minutes later, sending home Katrina Gorry’s free kick from just outside the 18-yard box for a 3-0 halftime advantage.
Press credited Stengel for the brace, despite her own big game in the vitally important win that vaulted the Royals into playoff contention with 21 points, good for fourth place and just two points behind second-place Seattle as the National Women’s Soccer League nears the midway mark of the season.
"I didn’t think we were going to connect; I thought I over-hit it," Press said on her helper to Stengel, giving the center forward all the credit. "But she snuck in, and it was a classy finish with an even classier celebration."
Carli Lloyd pulled one back in the second half for Sky Blue (0-10-3, 3 points), which tied a league record with 13-straight matches without a win. The previous record stood since the Washington Spirit accomplished a similar feat in 2013.
Central defender Sam Johnson, who was acquired from the Chicago Red Stars last week in the same trade that brought Press back from Sweden, made her debut in Utah gold, as well.
"This week was vital. Getting four points out of it is still big," Harvey said. "Now we go back on the road at Portland and Seattle for a tough road stretch, but you’ve got to get points on the road now.
"We’ll enjoy this, and then get ready for Portland next week."
Utah travels to the Rose City to face Portland Thorns FC at 9 p.m. MT Friday, July 6. The Royals will stay on the road for a midweek match Wednesday, July 11 at 8:30 p.m. MT at Seattle.