Utah Roy­als roar back, forge a draw with Hous­ton Dash

Orlando Sentinel - - Weather - By Ju­lia Poe

Utah Roy­als rookie Tziarra King was ready for her mo­ment.

The No. 8 pick in the 2020 NWSL draft waited for it for years — since her se­nior year of high school in New Jer­sey, when her team only won two matches; for four years at NC State, where she fin­ished third in school history in goals, starts and points; and in Jan­uary, when she be­came the first Wolf­pack player to be se­lected in the NWSL draft.

So even though it came a few months later than ex­pected, King was ready for her pro­fes­sional de­but Tues­day in a 3-3 come­back draw with the Hous­ton Dash.

She didn’t en­ter the game un­til the 69th minute with the Roy­als trail­ing 3-1. Al­though the Dash had a strong up­per hand on the score­board, the game was de­volv­ing into a back-and-forth shootout.

In the fi­nal 10 min­utes, Utah landed back-to-back punches.

Roy­als at­tacker Vero Bo­quete scored off a free kick in the 82nd minute af­ter a yel­low card, curl­ing the ball around a wall of play­ers and past the fin­ger­tips of keeper Jane Campbell.

Then, with a minute left in reg­u­la­tion, King pounced on a skip­ping free kick and headed the ball down for the equal­iz­ing goal.

“From the warmup, [coach] Craig [Har­ring­ton] had told me, ‘You’re going to be that spark off the bench,’ ” King said. “I’m glad I could step up into that role that they wanted me to be.”

Play­ers from both teams drew attention ahead of kick­off dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

Af­ter Chicago Red Stars de­fender Casey Short broke down in tears dur­ing the na­tional an­them ahead of her team’s match Satur­day, the league be­gan to re­con­sider whether the song should be played at all.

Com­mis­sioner Lisa Baird re­leased a state­ment Mon­day say­ing play­ers now had a third op­tion dur­ing the an­them — they could stand, kneel or choose to re­main in the locker room.

No one from the Hous­ton and Utah squads took the new op­tion. In­stead, bench play­ers and staff walked onto the field along­side the starters dur­ing the na­tional an­them. Ev­ery Utah player and coach kneeled for the an­them, while sev­eral Hous­ton play­ers and coaches chose to stand.

Three of the four ref­er­ees for Tues­day’s game chose to kneel dur­ing the an­them as well for the first time in the tour­na­ment.

The third match of the Chal­lenge Cup mir­rored the tone of pre­vi­ous games — high-scor­ing, high-oc­tane and highly fun for ca­sual and ra­bid fans alike.

De­spite months of iso­la­tion from team­mates and ath­ome work­outs, play­ers brought a fu­ri­ous in­ten­sity to the open­ing round of the Chal­lenge Cup even when tech­nique or chem­istry fal­tered.

The match be­tween Hous­ton and Utah fea­tured six qual­ity goals and non­stop ac­tion for both sides.

The Roy­als took a lead in the 35th minute when vet­eran Amy Ro­driguez pulled the ball wide and fed it into the box for Cana­dian Diana Mathe­son to re­di­rect into the net. But the Dash took over from there, led by English star Rachel Daly.

Both teams brought a new look into the Chal­lenge Cup.

Af­ter trad­ing de­fender

Becky Sauer­brunn, the Roy­als were also with­out sev­eral no­table stars for the tour­na­ment, in­clud­ing Amer­i­cans Chris­ten Press and Kel­ley O’Hara and Cana­dian De­siree Scott.

The Dash com­pleted a ma­jor over­haul in the off­sea­son that in­cluded trad­ing star Kealia Watt. For the first time, Hous­ton en­tered this sea­son as the only team with­out a U.S. na­tional al­lo­cated player.

Wear­ing the cap­tain’s arm­band, Daly stepped up to de­liver two goals for the Dash. She lev­eled the game just be­fore the half, col­lect­ing an arc­ing pass into the box and smash­ing it past keeper Abby Smith in the first minute of stop­page time.

Daly burst out of half­time with the same en­ergy, head­ing down a skip­ping cor­ner kick in the 47th minute to stretch the Dash lead to 2-1.

The striker al­most added a third for a hat trick in the 61st minute, block­ing a kick by Smith and fly­ing for­ward to slot at home the ricochetin­g ball. But the ref­eree waved off the goal, say­ing Daly en­croached on the keeper be­fore the ball was live.

NWSL opener rat­ings

The NWSL Chal­lenge Cup opener set a view­ing record for the league.

The match be­tween the North Carolina Courage and the Port­land Thorns, which was the team sport­ing event to be staged dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, drew 572,000 view­ers on CBS Satur­day. It was the most­watched NWSL match since the league be­gan play in 2013.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.