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NWSL Saturday: Colaprico strike spoils Utah home opener

Week 3 is here, with two games today and two games tomorrow, while the Houston Dash have a bye week. Here’s what went down on the third edition of 2018 Soccer Saturday.

Washington Spirit 2, North Carolina Courage 4

McCall Zerboni ended the night with a brace in the Courage’s 4-2 road win over the Spirit. (photo by Lewis Gettier)

It was a high-scoring affair in D.C., as the visiting North Carolina Courage maintained their perfect start to the season by defeating the Washington Spirit, 4-2. McCall Zerboni finished the night with a brace, while Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams also scored for the Courage. Mallory Pugh and Francisca Ordega scored for the Spirit.

Pugh, pushed back into the midfield for the match, opened up scoring in the contest’s third minute. She looked to create an opportunity on goal, sending a ball forward that was intended for Joanna Lohman but was broken up by the Courage defense. The ball took an unfortunate Courage deflection and landed right back at Pugh’s feet, and she fired off a shot that beat goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo for the first goal of the match.

Following Pugh’s goal, Crystal Dunn helped swing the momentum in the Courage’s favor, putting one dangerous shot on target before finally scoring the equalizer at the 20 minute mark. Minutes later McCall Zerboni perfectly placed a Courage free kick past Spirit netminder Aubrey Bledsoe to hand the Courage a lead that they would carry through the remainder of the match.

Shortly after halftime, Zerboni got her second of the night, once again scoring on a set piece play. Abby Dahlkemper took the corner kick, which Kristen Hamilton gained possession of before finding Zerboni unmarked in front of goal. Hamilton sent the ball to Zerboni, who sent it into the back of the net with a half volley to double the Courage’s lead.

Ordega brought the Spirit back within one in the 58th minute off a set piece play on the other side of the field, but Williams struck less than 10 minutes later to seal the win for the visitors in their first road trip of the year.

The Courage will next return home, where they will take on the Seattle Reign on Wednesday, April 18 in one of two midweek matches. The Spirit will hit the road to take on the Portland Thorns on Friday, April 20.

GOAL SUMMARY:

1. Spirit – Pugh 1 (unassisted), 27

2. Courage – Dunn 1 (McDonald), 20

3. Courage – Zerboni 1 (Williams), 24

4. Courage – Zerboni 2 (Hamilton), 48

5. Spirit – Ordega 1 (Solaun), 58

6. Courage – Williams 1 (Dunn), 66

– Allison Lee

Chicago Red Stars 1, Utah Royals 0

A banner at the Utah Royals home opener (Picture by Patti Giobetti for The Equalizer)

The week opened with the first-ever NWSL match in Utah as the Royals sold out their home opener (with some seats closed due to a post-game concert). 19,203 fans turned out and provided a cacophonous background. Each team got a few early looks, including a shot by Yuki Nagasato that was denied by the post in the 22nd minute. The play went to the other end of the pitch immediately afterward as Gunny Jonsdottir slipped in behind Chicago’s back line. Sam Johnson made a strong recovery and tackled the ball away inside the box. Jonsdottir went down, but much to the ire of the fans, no foul or penalty was called.

A few minutes later, back in Chicago’s attacking half, Alyssa Mautz sent in a cross from the right flank. Royals defender Rachel Corsie cleared it with her head, but it fell right to Danielle Colaprico at the top of the box, who trapped it with her chest before launching a half-volley to the upper 90 over goalkeeper Abby Smith.

Utah saw more possession of the ball in the second half, but a combination of the offside flag and last-ditch defending denied them an equalizer. In the 56th minute, midfielder Diana Matheson played in Jonsdottir with a clever through ball. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher was quick off her line to block Jonsdottir, and Brooke Elby sent the rebound wide. However, the biggest moment in the second half didn’t happen anywhere near a goal. In the 76th minute, Amy Rodriguez subbed in for Matheson, making her return nearly a year to the date after tearing her ACL in the 2017 home opener for FC Kansas City, a game in which she scored a goal before getting injured and was her first game of soccer in over a year at that point due to her pregnancy with her second child. Rodriguez didn’t get many touches on the ball but immediately added more pace to the Royals’ attack.

This is the first win of the season for Chicago, who return home next Wednesday to play Houston for the second time in four matches. They then host Sky Blue next Saturday. The Royals drop their first game of the season after earning two straight draws. They’ll travel to North Carolina to feature in their second-straight Lifetime Game of the Week next Saturday.

GOAL SUMMARY:

1. Red Stars – Colaprico 1 (unassisted), 27

– Chelsey Bush

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