Coming to Utah has been amazing. —Utah Royals goalkeeper Abby Smith
HERRIMAN — Just over three months ago, the Utah Royals existed as FC Kansas City, one of the more successful franchises in the National Women’s Soccer League.
In a whirlwind, however, that team was purchased by Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen, relocated to the Beehive State, given a new identity and has undergone the process of roster building, albeit with a head start, as the Royals received the rights to all the Kansas City players.
After months of buildup, that group, along with new head coach Laura Harvey and her staff, have finally hit the pitch to begin a month-long training camp at the new Zions Bank Real Academy before they play their first game March 24 on the road against the Orlando Pride.
For the players, there’s a variety of emotions about starting this new chapter, from excitement to relief that it’s finally happening.
“Coming to Utah has been amazing,” said goalkeeper Abby Smith, who is a relatively late addition to the roster after getting selected in a dispersal draft Jan. 30 following the folding of the Boston Breakers franchise. “The culture, the environment has been awesome. Everybody’s been so welcoming and just nice and actually feel like they want us here and they want to see us grow and improve and be successful, so that’s been so exciting and really awesome.”
Defender Becca Moros is one who is feeling less stress now that actual training has begun.
“Waiting for everything to happen, and then getting in here a couple days early for meetings, it’s like once you start sweating and once you’re out there with your teammates, everything kind of just relaxes and feels a lot better,” she said.
As for what has happened on the field during the first few days of training, Harvey opened things up with a game to help players get to know each other (the team also spent last weekend together touring facilities and hit Topgolf) before moving into tactics.
“There’s tons of stuff to learn from Laura,” Moros said. “I’ve heard she’s unbelievable with film and tactical stuff, so I think there’s going to be a lot of information coming out over the next couple weeks, and I think most of us are pretty excited about that.”
Said Harvey, who comes to Utah after five seasons with the Seattle Reign during which time she was named NWSL Coach of the Year in both 2014 and 2015: “Just looking forward to now just moving forward. Preseason is always about progression.”
Although the NWSL’s full schedule has not yet been released, it has been announced that the Royals’ home opener will be April 14 against the Chicago Red Stars at Rio Tinto. The league originally announced that the full schedule would be released Tuesday, but it’s now slated to be revealed on Wednesday.
“This is the first time the URFC jersey is going to be put on,” said striker Amy Rodriguez of the club’s beginning, “and we want to give it our best shot and have the best team collectively out on the field, and I think we’re going to do that."