It has been known for some time that U.S. Women’s National Team camp would start on June 1st, three days before the official FIFA window ahead of its June 7 friendly vs. China at Rio Tinto Stadium. This meant that with a weekend full of games for Saturday, June 2nd and Sunday, June 3rd, players called into camp would miss out on these weekend games.
For Utah Royals FC, this would mean the game at Sky Blue FC would be without goalkeeper Abby Smith, defender Becky Sauerbrunn, and forward Amy Rodriguez, all who were called by USWNT head coach Jill Ellis, and all who are a significant part of the Royals starting XI.
Now, I could go on a tangent about how poorly-timed this is, and how unfair it seems to the NWSL, clubs, and fans, but I won’t because I will look on the bright side of things, because really, there’s just enough bad news in the world today, and my heart can’t handle any more negativity this week.
Positive #1: Three URFC Players Named to USWNT June Roster
Becky Sauerbrunn making the roster was not surprising, and neither was Amy Rodriguez, who has fully recovered from her 2017 ACL injury, and with Kelly O’Hara sidelined with a hamstring injury, that, too, was not a shock, but I have to admit that I did not expect Abby Smith to be named to the roster.
And hear me out, this has nothing to do with her abilities because Smith is one of the best young keepers in the league, but Jill Ellis has been set on the same three goalkeepers (Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris, and Jane Campbell) every camp. This time, Ellis decided to not call in Campbell and opted for Smith and rookie Casey Murphy.
So yes, the Royals will be without three key players vs Sky Blue this Saturday, but this an opportunity for Smith and Rodriguez to give their best at camp and make the 18 for the June 7 and 10 games. Additionally, Rio Tinto is hosting the June 7 friendly, and Royals fans would be able to see Utah players in red, white, and blue.
Positive #2: A Chance for Players
The departure of three USWNT players leaves three positions for Laura Harvey to fill for Saturday’s game, and these spots will allow for players to get more minutes, including Maegan Kelly, Sydney Miramontez, Taylor Lytle, and Lo’eau LaBonta. Kelly has yet to make an appearance.
Smith at USWNT camp will allow Nicole Barnhart to get her first start of 2018. Off-season surgery was the main reason the former USWNT keeper has been the #2, especially with Smith fully healthy. Barnhart has played in 108 games in the NWSL, all with FC Kansas City from 2013-2017.
With Barnhart moving up, and to follow league rules, the Royals signed Duke alumna EJ Proctor, Utah’s second-round pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft. Proctor has been with the Royals as a practice player.
Positive #3: All the Other International Players Remain
U.S. Soccer seems to have been the only federation to call their players early. All others are sticking with the June 4 date, and that is a handful of good news for Laura Harvey and all of us, to be honest.
Elise Thorsnes (Norway), Rachel Corsie, (Scotland) and Gunny Jónsdóttir (Iceland) will compete in World Cup qualifiers across Europe. Desiree Scott and Diana Matheson will join Canada’s National Team for their friendly against Germany on June 10. Katie Bowen will represent New Zealand for their international tour against Japan on June 10. Players will not depart until after the trip to New Jersey.
So, expect to see them on Saturday vs. Sky Blue FC (0-7-1, 1 point) at Yurcak Field. The match-up is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. MT, and will be aired on KMYU, the KSL TV app, and ESPN700.