SANDY — Utah Royals FC snapped the three-match winning streak of the Portland Thorns behind a rare goal by defender Becky Sauerbrunn on Friday night.
And that should be where this conversation heads.
But by Saturday morning, a far different storyline reared its ugly head.
Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch alluded to racist and homophobic language hurled against her during the match, a 1-0 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium, in a tweet that was later deleted from her Twitter account late Friday.
The incident spread quickly, thanks to a strong statement from Timbers Army, the official supporters group of the Thorns and Major League Soccer affiliate Portland Timbers FC.
"Last night, one of our players was abused (with) racist language during a match, and neither NWSL nor Utah Royals FC did anything to stop it," the organizaton said. "A few weeks back, another player's wife was hit (with) racist language walking on the street.
"This is why we fight."
After Franch deleted her original tweet, she responded to inquiries on Twitter with the word, "Patience."
Utah Royals FC responded to the criticism, saying that they were aware of the incident and are investigation the situation.
"We are aware of the allegations of racist fan language during last night’s match and are continuing our investigation of the incident," the Royals said in a statement. "Racism in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our stadiums."
A Utah Royals spokesperson told KSL.com that the club is still working to identify the individual in question.
"I am a proud black woman. I play for a team and fans that I love," Utah striker Christen Press said. "Acts of racism and hate hurt everyone. This club stands for equality. What we won’t accept from any fan is racism or discrimination at any level."
Added teammate Sauerbrunn, via Twitter: "This is totally unacceptable. There is no place for racism in our game or anywhere, ever."
I am a proud black woman. I play for a team and fans that I love. Acts of racism and hate hurt everyone. This club stands for equality. What we won’t accept from any fan is racism or discrimination at any level. https://t.co/WddLQx5h9O— Christen Press (@ChristenPress) September 7, 2019
Firsthand accounts reported on social media from fans in the area of the incident — reportedly near section 15 at Rio Tinto Stadium — obscure the specifics of the incident.
Fans at the stadium, who posted under online aliases and/or only first names, tagged Utah Royals FC alerting them to allegations of racist and homphobic language hurled against Franch, a Kansas native who is black and openly gay. The club tried to identify the perpetrator of the alleged slur, but no one was able to immediately confirm the incident. The club placed extra security personnel near the section of the alleged incident for the remainder of the night, Utah Royals FC said on Twitter.
Are you still available to help? We have extra security stationed in your section. However, without identifying the individual, we can not remove them. pic.twitter.com/UpbxjiQCqX— Utah Royals FC (@UtahRoyalsFC) September 7, 2019
But without identifying the individual in question, the team could not remove them from the stadium, according to the Royals.
"He didn’t say anything after security was there," one Twitter user responded. "No one knew exactly who it was … it was a group of drunk boys, but when security came, (they) shut up real fast."
Rio Tinto Stadium also has a text line to report potential incidents of abuse during Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC matches, as well as third-party events like the Utah high school soccer championships that are staged in the venue every fall and spring.
"We are aware of the allegations of racist fan language in Salt Lake last night at the game and are investigating," the Thorns said in a statement. "Racism in any form is unacceptable."
This is the third time in the past year Utah sports fans have reported offensive language at a professional game. The Jazz fined and banned fans after allegations surfaced of racist language aimed at former Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, and Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke was recently fired after he was reportedly found to have used homophobic language during a confrontation with a match official.