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Silas Walker, KSL

Another goal, another shutout: Utah Royals FC take 2-0 start to sophomore season

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Apr. 27, 2019 at 11:12 p.m. | Posted - Apr. 27, 2019 at 8:45 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Two goals. Two shutouts. Six points.

Check, check and check for Utah's professional women's soccer club.

Christen Press scored the only goal of the match, and Nicole Barnhart earned her second clean sheet in goal in as many matches to help Utah Royals FC take a 1-0 road win from the Orlando Pride at Orlando City Stadium in Central Florida.

Barnhart made four saves for the Royals (2-0-0, 6 points), who have yet to allow a goal in 2019 — their second season as a club in Utah.

Press, the U.S. international who has all-but assured a spot on this summer's Women's World Cup squad in France, currently leads the Royals with a goal and an assist in the first two matches of the season.

"She was phenomenal tonight. That goal was world-class. I’ve seen her do it before, so. I know it’s not a fluke. She’s just class," Utah defender Becky Sauerbrunn said.

"I think she’s super dangerous defensively and on the attack, and I can’t speak highly enough of her. She’s playing on a different level right now, and we’re very fortunate that we have her in Utah."

Head coach Laura Harvey agreed with her captain.

"That's why we traded for her. The girl can score goals," she said. "She's kicking herself she didn't score more; that's just her. It says a lot about this team."

After a sluggish first few minutes, Press opened the scoring with a rocket that slipped around the back line and past Pride goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer for the 1-0 advantage.

Rookie fullback Michelle Maemone, who made her second start in as many games this season, set up the game-winning goal with a cross toward the edge of the box that Press corralled with one foot, took a touch with the other, and converted into a laser in the 19th minute.

Maemone played 60 minutes a week ago while boasting a 101-degree fever the night before. In Week 2, she came off after about 50 minutes, replaced by forward Katie Stengel.

The goal shook off the jitters, too. Utah out-shot the Pride 7-3 for the next 20 minutes as the Royals took a 9-5 lead with 60 percent possession at the halftime break.

There were close chances in the second half. Orlando star Marta narrowly missed on a free kick from just outside the box, but it singed Barnhart’s eyebrows as it flew over the net and hit behind the goal in the 88th minute.

Shelina Zadorsky added a left-footed try just three minutes earlier, but her shot sailed wide of the goal.

Press nearly had a brace in second-half stoppage time, but her shot missed by inches. It was a mad dash to the finish, with Utah looking to hold on for a road win and Orlando trying desperately to take points at home after a rocky start and just one point in the standings.

"We’re perfectionists. We want to be better," Harvey said. "We could’ve scored more; we could’ve made it easier on ourselves. But these two games a year ago, we wouldn’t have won.

"We just now need to pack up our performances and things will take care of themselves. Performance-wise they can be better, but mentality, grit, all that — it’s so much better than it was a year ago."

But the shutout stood, and the Royals took all three points in a place where it felt hard-done by a handball called off Becky Sauerbrunn's face a year ago.

Next up

Utah will try to continue its hot start to the season when it hosts Chicago next Friday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. MDT at Rio Tinto Stadium. The match will be streamed live on Yahoo Sports and KSL.com.

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