SANDY — The winds of change weren’t blowing for Utah Royals FC in the Windy City.
Sam Kerr scored her league-best 12th goal of the season, and former Utah Royals fullback Brooke Elby added her own finisher to lift the Chicago Red Stars to a 2-0 win Saturday night at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.
The loss drops Utah to 5-6-3 (18 points) on the season, and winless in its last six matches with losses in four of the Royals’ previous five.
Kerr gave the home side a 1-0 advantage just five minutes into the match. The Australian international and reigning NWSL golden boot winner connected with Casey Short for a header — that Nicole Barnhart successfully parried aside.
Barnhart, for all her efforts, finished the night with six saves.
But the Utah goalkeeper couldn’t make a follow-up save on the first goal, and Kerr finished from inside the box untouched to give the Red Stars the advantage for all but the first few moments of the match.
A club that was winless in the past five matches was also without the U.S. trio of Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press. And Kerr made them pay, converting the Red Stars’ only chance of the opening half hour for a 1-0 lead.
Amy Rodriguez drew the Royals’ best chance of the first half in the 20th minute, when she earned a free kick via a foul on the outer fringes of the penalty box.
But the set piece went nowhere, and Chicago out-shot the Royals 9-4 en route to a 1-0 halftime lead.
Rodriguez nearly tied up the match in the 72nd minute with a left-footed shot from the center of the box, but Chicago goalkeeper Emily Boyd’s save kept the clean sheet. That came moments after Short’s attempt was miraculously saved by Barnhart, and moments before the Royals failed to convert from a chaotic sequence from close range in the 75th minute.
But the Royals couldn’t convert their chances, and Elby, who played for Utah a year ago before moving to Chicago in a trade that sent Christen Press to the Beehive State, finished off the match with a goal in the final five minutes.
The 5-foot-4 outside back came off the bench and slotted home her first goal of the season from the center of the box to lead Chicago to three points — and a tie for second place in the NWSL standings.
The Royals return home Wednesday, Aug. 7 to try to snap its winless skid against league-worst Sky Blue FC. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MDT on KSL.com and the Yahoo Sports app.