Photo courtesy Utah Royals FC, Utah Royals FC
Utah Royals FC's Makenzy Doniak dribbles during a training session at America First Field in Sandy, Utah.

SANDY — To put it in her own words, it’s been a strange last 15 months for Utah Royals FC midfielder Makenzy Doniak.

In February of 2018, on the very first day of training in preparation for the season with the North Carolina Courage, Doniak tore her left ACL and had season-ending surgery a short time later.

Four months later, things got weird.

In the midst of Doniak’s rehab, former United States Women’s National Team stalwart Heather O’Reilly left England club Arsenal and wanted to return to the National Women’s Soccer League, where she had last played for FC Kansas City in 2016.

URFC owned O’Reilly’s rights after FCKC was relocated to Utah, and given that O’Reilly has a home in North Carolina, a deal was constructed that allowed her to return to the United States and play for the Courage.

In exchange for O’Reilly and a 2019 second-round draft pick, URFC acquired Doniak and a 2019 third-round pick, which became Alexandra Kimball.

“I kind of thought I was not really in the minds of anyone, just doing my own thing getting back, so to be traded, I was a little confused,” Doniak said earlier this week. “I was also optimistic about it.”

Doniak remained on URFC’s injury report for the first three games of the 2019 season, but was made available last weekend against the Houston Dash, and she ultimately made her debut for the squad, replacing Katie Stengel in the 79th minute of a 2-1 loss.

“Getting on the field on Saturday was a really great feeling,” Doniak said, adding that like many players who sustain injuries with long rehabs, she now appreciates the game more than she did before. “I just had a lot of joy. Although we lost, for me personally it felt good to get out there.”

Doniak hopes that moving forward, she can be a spark on the field whenever head coach Laura Harvey calls upon her.

“Sometimes the game can be in a lull, and I just hope that whether it’s coming off the bench or starting, whatever, that I’m kind of that energy-bringer,” she said.

Harvey said that as the summer unfolds and as many as seven players will be gone for the World Cup, she feels Doniak will be able to provide a variety of things on the field.

“She’s gone from just a forward in college to being able to play in multiple positions, which is a credit to her and just shows how good of a player she is that she has the ability to play in multiple roles in this league, because that’s difficult,” Harvey said.

One thing Harvey said she hasn’t asked of Doniak this week is any inside tips on how to knock the Courage off, as the two sides will face each other on Sunday afternoon in North Carolina.

The defending NWSL champion, the Courage are off to another solid start in 2019, as their plus-6 goal differential leads the league.

“I know that they’re a very hardworking and just high-press team,” Doniak said. “That’s their identity, and so I think knowing that, we have to match that energy level. I think we’re ready for that.”

Comment on this story

After URFC suffered its first loss of the season to the Dash thanks in large part to some defensive miscues, the goal this week is to get back to how the team played the first three games of the campaign when it didn’t allow a single goal.

“I think the biggest thing is just a little bit of refocus and get back to playing our game and who we are,” said goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. “I think just keeping the ball, keeping the pace of the game up, which is a strength of ours, and just continue to play our game through the whole 90-plus minutes is going to be the biggest thing for us.”