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Bethany Balcer makes the difference in Reign victory over Royals

Photo courtesy of Lucas Muller.

As the battle for better seeding heats up, OL Reign and the Utah Royals FC took the pitch early on Wednesday afternoon. Substitutions made the difference for OL Reign, who captured their first victory of the tournament, 1-0.

Bethany Balcer scored the game-winning goal in the 91st minute, off an assist from Yuka Nicole Momiki. Balcer’s header hit off the foot of Nicole Barnhart, and went into the Royals’ net.

Other than Balcer’s attempts and eventual goal, there weren’t many serious chances throughout the match. However, each side’s goalkeepers did record a few saves to keep the score level until the 91st minute. Barnhart featured in her first match of 2020. Previously, Abby Smith had started the first two matches of the NWSL Challenge Cup for Utah. However, Smith was rested in the match, a decision made by head coach Craig Harrington. On the other end of the pitch, Michelle Betos made her return to soccer after rupturing her Achilles tendon last year.

Barnhart finished the contest with four saves, with two coming against Bethany Balcer. Meanwhile, Balcer made the best attempts for the Reign, after she entered the match in the 69th minute, coming on for Costa Rican midfielder Shirley Cruz.

OL Reign will take on the Portland Thorns FC in a Cascadia rivalry in the final group-stage match on Monday. Meanwhile, in their final group stage match in Herriman, Utah, the Royals will face off with the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday.

Further analysis to follow.

DISCUSS: What did you think of the game? Which player stood out?


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