It’s super exciting. It’s always a blessing to be called in. It’s something that I don’t think I’ll get used to, just because it’s such an honor. —Utah Royals FC goalkeeper Abby Smith
With seven players from six countries outside the United States plus another bunch of Americans who have at one time or another been called up for national duty, the FIFA breaks that occur regularly within a National Women’s Soccer League season don’t serve as much of a rest for a big chunk of the Utah Royals FC roster.
As announced over the course of a few days earlier this week, nine URFC players will represent their countries during the international window that runs from June 4-14, which is the most of any team in the NWSL (a total of 39 players from the league’s nine teams got the call).
Becky Sauerbrunn, Amy Rodriguez and Abby Smith will report to camp for the United States Women’s National Team on Friday, meaning they’ll miss Saturday’s game against Sky Blue FC in New Jersey (it stands to reason USWNT stalwart Kelley O’Hara would have also gotten the call if not for her the hamstring injury that has hampered her for most of the season).
The USWNT will play two matches against China during the break, one of which will be June 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium. The other will be June 12 in Cleveland.
Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott will represent Canada; Gunny Jonsdottir, Iceland; Katie Bowen, New Zealand; Elise Thorsnes, Norway; and Rachel Corsie, Scotland. Australian Katrina Gorry is the only international on the roster who will not play, as the Matildas had World Cup qualifying earlier this spring.
While most of the group are veteran mainstays for their national teams, the call-up to the USWNT was sweet for the 24-year-old Smith, who has been invited to camp a few times but never gotten in a game (of 24 players called into camp by USWNT head coach Jill Ellis, only 18 will be on the roster for each of the two games the squad will play against China).
“It’s super exciting,” Smith said on Wednesday after URFC’s practice. “It’s always a blessing to be called in. It’s something that I don’t think I’ll get used to, just because it’s such an honor. It’s exciting, and especially since we’re in Utah. I’m really pumped about it.”
Given that Smith’s call-up wasn’t as guaranteed as some of the others on the roster might have been, Harvey expressed particular excitement for her goalkeeper, posting a photo collage of Smith on Twitter along with the message, “Congrats to everyone been called up to represent their WNT. Special shoutout to this leg-end fully deserved after a great start with @UtahRoyalsFC.”
“For someone so young to get another opportunity having not had one for a while I think just shows her progression,” Harvey said Wednesday. “I think since she’s got here, I think her professionalism, her ability, her progression on a daily basis has been exceptional. Just to even keep someone like (backup goalkeeper and one-time USWNT mainstay) Nicole Barnhart out of sight and the lineup is a huge achievement, and I’m just really glad for her that she’s got the recognition on the international level, and I hope she goes in there and smashes it.”
Corsie, who captains the Scotland Women’s National Team, said it can be physically challenging to go back-and-forth between her NWSL team and her national team, but said the obstacles don’t matter once it’s time to hit the pitch.
Scotland will play Belarus on June 7 in Scotland and Poland June 12 in Poland, a match Corsie said is a “must-win.”
“You get a little bit used to it and you know what to expect,” she said, “so from that perspective, you just have to get on with it and put the work in and hope that when it comes to game time, you’re ready and you’re prepped and you’re physically OK to get through.”