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NWSL Saturday: Courage rally, beat Royals for first time

Kristen Hamilton

The only team to beat the North Carolina Courage during the club’s historic 2018 title run has finally been beaten by the reigning champions. Kristen Hamilton scored the equalizer and set up the winner as the Courage rallied for a 2-1 away win over Utah Royals FC on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Royals handed the Courage their only loss in 2018 and played them to draws in three other meetings before Friday.

The Royals took an early lead when Vero Boquete found Christen Press and the striker beat U.S. teammate Abby Dahlkemper before curling a shot around the 2017 Defender of the Year and past Steph Labbe. It was Press’ second goal in as many matches for the Royals since returning from the World Cup.

The Courage equalized in the 35th minute. After a turnover, Sam Mewis sent a ball forward to Hamilton who took it down with her shoulder. Hamilton then spun around and hit a missile for a volley that beat Nicole Barnhart and kept her one of the hottest goal scorers in the league.

Hamilton then helped created the 55th winner which began with a turnover after a Royals throw-in. Debinha then played a ball into space where Rachel Corsie had position on Hamilton. But the Courage forward would not give up and she caught Corsie from behind and won the ball clean when the defender went to ground and missed her tackle. Hamilton’s cross to McDonald was less than perfect but the Royals defense was stretched to the point that McDonald was able to settle and score.

The Courage (7-3-4, 25 pts) moved within a point of the Portland Thorns. They host the Washington Spirit on Friday night at Sahlen’s Stadium. The Royals (5-5-3, 18 pts) remain in 6th place and will be three points behind the playoff bubble after Sunday’s games. They next visit the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, August 3.

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