SANDY — As if part of a necessary gameday ritual, the scene is repeated again and again, always ending the same.
Utah Royals FC midfielder Gunny Jonsdottir will collide with an opponent during the course of a contest and go to the ground. Team trainer Emily Fortunado will trot out from the sideline onto the pitch to check on the Icelandic international, and a minute or two later, Fortunado will go back to the sideline, leaving Jonsdottir to continue playing.
“She just knows not to fight me,” Jonsdottir said of Fortunado. “It’s a lose for her. She knows I’m very hard to deal with. She doesn’t even try anymore to be like, ‘OK, Gunny, maybe tone it down a little.’ It just hasn’t worked.”
That, in a nutshell, captures what Jonsdottir, a fan favorite, has brought to URFC in its first year in existence and her first in the National Women’s Soccer League. The 29-year-old suffered three ACL tears from 2005-2013, but nevertheless is just one of five field players in the league to have played every single minute this season, serving as a constant for a URFC side that has employed a whopping 19 different starting lineups in 21 games.
Furthermore, she’s among the league leaders in both fouls given and fouls conceded.
“I, of course, want to play every minute of every game,” she said. “I’m very competitive, but I just do what the coach wants me to do, tells me to do. Of course it’s an honor that they give me the trust to start every game. I hope I can be there for the team and do my best.”
Jonsdottir’s coach, Laura Harvey, says the midfielder’s professionalism in taking care of her body off the field and then her athleticism on it are key reasons she’s been able to play the whole season. Perhaps even more so, however, Harvey pointed to Jonsdottir’s willingness to embrace physicality as something that has set her apart from many other international players who have tried to stick in the NWSL.
“I think the way she plays the game is very physical, but that’s one of the reasons why I think for a lot of players who come over here and don’t do as well as Gunny’s done, is because they’re not willing to compete on the athletic and physical side, and that’s something that she thrives on,” Harvey said. “It really suits her game.”
While Jonsdottir is in her element when jostling with opponents, the 2018 season hasn’t always been easy for her from a tactical standpoint. She started the year as a forward and scored URFC’s first-ever goal just three minutes into the season, but then Harvey moved her to the midfield in April where she has filled more of a defensive role.
“I think she knows what she wants to do going forward, but we’re trying to help her and push her and guide her on the defensive side, and I think she’s taken that well,” Harvey said. “I think she’s done really well in terms of proving that she can do jobs on both sides of the ball. She’s a threat when we have it, but she’s also a real tool in our armor when we don’t have it.”Comment on this story
Away from the field, Harvey credits Jonsdottir for being one of the team’s leaders, especially when it comes to being honest when struggles arise. For Jonsdottir, it’s all about trying to do whatever she can to help URFC continue its push toward the playoffs.
“If (Harvey) would put me in goal, I would be happy just to play,” Jonsdottir said. “However she thinks I can help the team win or be the best it can be, then I’m happy. I just love being on the field. I love fighting for the team, just being out there.”