Rodriguez's historic goal spoiled as Royals draw Portland, 1-1

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SANDY — Amy Rodriguez walked off with a little piece of history Saturday night.

The Utah Royals forward came off the pitch in the 55th minute of the Beehive State women’s soccer outfit’s match against the Portland Thorns, but not before a significant first in franchise history before the announced crowd of 8,446.

Barely one minute before, Rodriguez had worked a little magic.

“I felt that if we could just turn them a little bit, she could get a chance,” Utah coach Laura Harvey said. “She got one really good one in the first half, and I felt there was one good chance more in her."

Rodriguez scored her first goal in more than a year — and the first home goal in franchise history, as Utah Royals FC took a 1-1 draw Saturday evening against the Portland Thorns at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“It’s so rewarding for A-Rod to get that goal,” Utah captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. “We’ve seen how hard she was working, and I know how hard it was to lose her in KC last year. To have that goal and for it to be A-Rod was really special.

“You could see the excitement on her face. It was really unfortunate that we couldn’t make that the game-winner for her.”

U.S. international Tobin Heath scored for Portland (2-1-2), which out-shot the Royals 11-5.

Still, the Royals (0-1-4) will take away a little bit of consternation from their fourth draw in five matches — all without a win.

“I think this is the most frustrated I’ve been after a game,” Harvey said. “We knew what it would do to break them down, but we didn’t do it well enough and often enough to do it.

“When we did it, it caused enough problems. And we keep saying the same thing, that we know defensively we are good and we make it difficult. But we have to keep the ball. Tonight we got punished — and that’s the takeaway of the game from me.”

The Thorns out-shot the host Royals 5-3 in the first half, including the game’s only shot on goal and a 6-1 margin from the corner flag.

But the match stayed knotted at zeroes through the first 45 minutes, with no score until Rodriguez found space on the counterattack in the 54th minute.

After 144 minutes without a goal at home, the Utah Royals were finally on the board.

Rodriguez stunned the goalkeeper, cut a shot inside the left post, and walked off with a 1-0 advantage in her first start since going down in the season-opener last year in Kansas City.

Utah Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith (1) reaches up and grabs a shot on goal in the first as the Utah Royals host the Portland Thorns at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Photo: Adam Fondren, Deseret News)
Utah Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith (1) reaches up and grabs a shot on goal in the first as the Utah Royals host the Portland Thorns at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Photo: Adam Fondren, Deseret News)

She almost came off at halftime, too. But Harvey — who admitted she’ll probably be in trouble from the team’s medical staff — gave her an extra five minutes.

Which turned into seven.

Which turned into a goal.

“When the five-minute mark in the second half came rolling around, I was getting a little upset that my time was coming to an end,” Rodriguez said. “But luckily, I think I stayed about seven minutes and it was just enough to get the goal.”

The 31-year-old, two-time Olympic champion missed most of two-plus seasons of play, first for maternity leave and then after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in the 2017 season-opener.

The lead didn’t last long.

Portland’s Heath spun the equalizer in the 66th minute, finishing inside the box on a perfect through-ball from Canadian international star Christine Sinclair to tie the game at 1-1.

Rodriguez started her first match of the season after making her debut off the bench in the Royals’ 1-0 home-opening loss to the Chicago Red Stars two weeks ago.

Also in the starting lineup for the first time was defender Becca Moros, pushing the U.S. international right back into the forward flanks.

Australian international Katrina Gorry made her first NWSL appearance since 2014, less than three full days after arriving in Salt Lake City upon helping the Matildas qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Gorry entered as a 62nd-minute sub for attacker Diana Matheson.

“I thought tonight was going to be the night,” Sauerbrunn said. “A-Rod had a fantastic goal, and we just gave up an unfortunate goal.

“But overall, I thought it was a good soccer match; entertaining, fun to play, but disappointing not to get three points. We need those three points.”

Next up:

Utah continues its four-match homestand May 5 against former BYU star Ashley Hatch and the Washington Spirit. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MDT on and the KSL TV app.

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