Utah Soccer Defeats Portland in Home Opener

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Jack Gambassi

University of Utah’s Makayla Christensen (Jr. forward, #00) during the game against the Washington Huskies on March 26, 2021 at ute field on campus. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah women’s soccer team looks to build a new legacy this year. The Utes play Portland on Aug. 19 and will play Boise State on Aug. 22. It is the first time since the 2017 season that the Utes will open the season with back-to-back home games. Three of the team’s first four games will be played at home, with the first away game coming on Aug. 26.

This game is also a big moment for head coach Hideki Nakada, who recently became the third head coach in Utah women’s soccer history. It is Nakada’s first head coaching position, after being an associate head coach at Stanford. Nakada had a fabulous coaching career at Stanford, compiling a record of 132-15-10.

Nakada has had quite the journey throughout his career, starting at Idaho State from 2006-2008, then moving to Marquette from 2009-2012, spending 2013 at Oregon, before going to Stanford. Nakada’s career is impressive, and it is no wonder Mark Harlan named him as the newest head coach.

After going just 4-9-3 last season, Utah has a lot of expectations as the new season opens up. Nakada strives for success and Utah was able to step up to the expectations.

Against Portland, Eden Jacobsen was able to place a shot in the upper left corner off of an assist from Anna Escobedo.

The rest of the first half was relatively uneventful, with Jacobsen’s goal being Utah’s only shot on goal during the entire first half. Portland got three shots on goal in the first half, all blocked by Chelsea Peterson in Utah’s goal.

Portland started playing much more aggressive after halftime, pressuring the ball on almost every opportunity, but Utah was able to flip the script on Portland with Taliana Kaufusi in the 60th minute.

After going up 2-0, Portland started pushing even harder as they saw their odds begin to slip away. Their pressure seemed to begin to pay off as Nedya Sawan was able to slip past Utah’s defense and place one in the bottom left corner for Portland at 83:14.

But Utah responded with one of their own less than a minute later. Makayla Christensen placed one in the bottom right corner, off of an assist by McKenna Baillie. That would be the shot to seal the game as time expired with Utah winning 3-1.

Utah took only six shots during the game, with three of them being on goal. All three shots on goal scored, with Portland’s goalkeeper Bre Norris unable to record any saves. On the other side, Portland put up 13 shots, with seven of them being on goal. Peterson was able to save six of the seven, only being defeated by Sawan in the 83rd minute.

Nakada had high praise of Peterson’s game. “Chelsea did great,” he said. “She was under a lot of pressure, not only from her opponent but also from the weather being what it was. Going into halftime being up a goal was huge.”

Coach Nakada also wanted to thank all of the fans that came out to support the team despite the poor weather. “It’s something that I spoke a lot about when considering this opportunity,” Nakada said. “That was a big part of what I wanted to bring to this program. Fan support and having that environment is critical to one’s success.”

 

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