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Royal Pro Soccer Debut for Tziarra King

Former NC State soccer star Tziarra King, a late-game sub, had a memorable professional debut for the Utah Royals by scoring the tying goal in a NWSL Challenge Cup match against the Houston Dash

Trailing by two with time running out Tuesday, the Utah Royals turned to their first round draft pick to provide a spark in their National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup opener Tuesday.

And the aptly named Tziarra King came through with a performance neither she nor her team will soon forget.

The rookie from NC State finished off a comeback that saw her score her first professional goal in the 89th or 90 minutes to salvage a 3-3 tie against the Houston Dash. King converted a header from close range at the end of a free kick from teammate Vero Boquete to give the Royals a point in the match played without fans at Salt Lake City's Zions Bank Stadium.

"Today was just a really special day all around." King said after her Royal debut. "From kneeling with my teammates to honor the Black Lives Matter movement to getting my first appearance then my first goal, it was definitely one that’ll go down as one of the best days ever.”

King came into the game in the 69th minute as her team's third and final sub, replacing fellow forward Brittany Ratcliffe.

Shortly thereafter, Bouquete hammered a free kick from just outside the box through a Houston wall and inside the near post to bring Utah within a goal at 3-2. Less than five minutes later, Bouquette served up another well-placed ball off a setpiece, finding King just outside the far post for the tying header.

King followed the ball into the net, where she was mobbed by her teammates in celebration. Her effort earned her recognition as the "Woman of the Match."

“I think from the second I was drafted to this club I was going to fill the role I needed to fill," she said. "I’m glad from this first game that I can show that I’m going to step up to whatever role I need to play.”

The NWSL is the first professional team sports league in the U.S. to return to action since the coronavirus pandemic shutdown in mid-March. The Royals will play again on Thursday, July 4 against Sky Blue FC.

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