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Bethany Balcer’s stoppage time goal give Reign 1-0 win over Royals

UPDATED: Wed., July 8, 2020

Utah Royals FC defender Madeline Nolf, left, battles with OL Reign midfielder Shirley Cruz, right, during the first half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match at Zions Bank Stadium Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Herriman, Utah.  (Associated Press)
Utah Royals FC defender Madeline Nolf, left, battles with OL Reign midfielder Shirley Cruz, right, during the first half of an NWSL Challenge Cup soccer match at Zions Bank Stadium Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Herriman, Utah. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

HERRIMAN, Utah — Bethany Balcer scored in stoppage time and OL Reign defeated the Utah Royals 1-0 on Wednesday in the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup tournament.

It was the Reign’s first victory in three group-stage Challenge Cup matches played without fans at Zions Bank Stadium.

Balcer’s header came off Nicole Momiki’s well-placed cross in the 91st minute. Royals goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart appeared to get a hand on the ball, but she couldn’t keep it out of the net. Barnhart was starting for Utah after Abby Smith started in the team’s first two games.

The Reign had Michelle Betos in goal for the first time in the tournament. It was her first game since injuring her Achilles tendon last season. She was tested early, fending off two good Utah chances in the first 12 minutes.

The Royals are playing without forward Christen Press, who opted out of the tournament.

Balcer, last season’s NWSL Rookie of the Year, had a good chance from distance in the 71st minute after coming off the bench, but Barnhart dove to push it aside.

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