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Rookie EJ Proctor leaves Utah Royals FC

Proctor, a 34th pick overall in the 2018 NWSL College Draft in mid-January, makes the personal decision to leave the team.

NCAA Womens Soccer: College Cup Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

With so much hype surrounding the trade that brought Christen Press and Samantha Johnson to Utah Royals FC, we could have easily lost sight of another important player development within the organization. Though there was not an official announcement from the club, RSL Soapbox has learned via Instagram that rookie goalkeeper EJ (Emma Jane Proctor) has left the team.

Proctor, one of the best collegiate goalkeepers in the country from Duke University, was selected in the fourth round of the 2018 NWSL College Draft. It was to be a promising future for the rookie. A goalkeeper selection was a wise decision for the Royals. Utah, at the time, awaited confirmation of veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart to join the roster, and once she did, Proctor was believed to be the backup, even starter if she impressed the coaching staff.

But a day later, the rumors about the Boston Breakers folding began circulating, and that changed everything for rookies like Proctor and other NWSL players. Suddenly, a league of ten teams became nine, and the Boston Breakers players were dispersed throughout the league. Even though the Boston players would not count towards the league’s roster limit, it made roster spots, especially for starting positions, much more competitive.

Utah Royals FC selected forward Katie Stengel, goalkeeper Abby Smith, and defender Brooke Elby from Boston, all who would contribute significantly to the team. Smith, already considered an up-and-coming goalkeeper, became the Royals’ starting goalkeeper, edging out Barnhart. Because of the roster league rules, allowing active 18-20 players, there just would not be room for Proctor.

Proctor, though, stayed on as a practice player, but she could not earn a paycheck since she was not on a contract with the team. Her one opportunity came when she signed as a goalkeeper replacement for the match against Sky Blue FC in New Jersey. The move was made after Abby Smith was called up to represent the United States Women’s National team in the international friendlies against China P.R. Though Proctor suited up for the game, it was Barnhart who earned the start versus Sky Blue.

It was definitely a tough situation for a rookie to be in, especially without a contract. Rookies enter the draft with the hope that they will make a roster, but this year, with a team folding, it’s a season where there are too many players but not enough teams.

All of us at RSL Soapbox wish Proctor the best. How we wish it would have been different. Thank you for all of your hard work this season.