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NWSL Wednesday: Stengel scores another game-winner, Royals a point out of 4th

Katie Stengel hit her second game-winner in four days to lift Utah Royals FC to a 1-0 victory over the Washington Spirit on Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. The win moves the Royals to within a point of the playoff line and dropped the Spirit to a league-worst 14 losses.

Most of the country missed the scoreless opening half of the match due to major streaming issues that froze the feed in several different spots. When the teams emerged for the second half, the first 15 minutes were played on mostly even terms before the Royals began to seize control of the midfield.

The breakthrough happened in the 74th minute when the Royals were allowed to build down the right side. A ball in looked to be intended for Diana Matheson, but she stepped over it and Stengel ran onto it in space. Stengel, a dispersal draft selection from the Boston Breakers, did not miss the mark on her fifth goal of the season.

The Royals (7-6-7, 28 pts) won their second straight match and moved within one point of the fourth-place Portland Thorns. However, the Royals sit sixth, with the Chicago Red Stars also on 28 points but ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Red Stars also have two matches in hand, and the Thorns one. The Royals host Seattle Reign FC on Lifetime this Saturday.

The Spirit (2-14-4, 10 pts) dropped their seventh match in a row and are now winless in 11. They were shut out for the fourth match in a row and ninth time in 10. Jim Gabarra’s side did not win a corner kick and preliminary stats did not credit them with a shot on goal. They have the weekend off and will next play the Dash in Houston on Friday, August 17.

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