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Get to know your Utah Royals FC contributors, Part 2

Get to know RJ Allen, Ian Knighton, Lucas Muller, and Ryan Kelly.

RSL Soapbox

A second season of Utah Royals FC starts Saturday, and here at RSL Soapbox, we have a team of dedicated contributors ready to bring you the best coverage this season. Cindy Lara, Lucas Muller, Wirtjo Leonard, Ryan Kelly, and Megan Webb return from last year. We also added three new contributors in the offseason: RJ Allen, Stockton Mair, and Ian Knighton. RJ is a member of the NWSL Media Association, and Stockton is a huge Brittany Ratcliffe fan. Ian actually argued with Sam Kerr on Twitter.

In preparation for the upcoming season, some of the contributors wanted to tell you a little bit about themselves, including reason we stand behind Utah Royals FC, favorite player, and thoughts on the upcoming season. This is part two of our contributors piece. If you missed, part one, check it here.

RJ Allen - Royals Contributor

Twitter & Instagram: @TheSoccerCritic

Why do you support Utah Royals FC?

I am always going to watch a team that Laura Harvey coaches. The way she puts a team together, and the way she coaches draw me to her teams. And as anyone knows me knows, I am a huge fan of goalkeeping and Utah has two of the best goalkeepers in the league. It’s a fun team to watch and a great group of people to work with while writing content.

Favorite player to watch and why?

On the Royals, my eyes are usually drawn to Amy Rodriguez. While I love goalkeeping, and I enjoy a number of players on the team, ARod is a player that I have followed for years and seeing her evolve over the years is something I’ve really enjoyed. She is fast on the field and deadly in front of goal.

Thoughts on the upcoming season?

I’m looking forward to seeing what Utah can do this year. Having Verónica Boquete in the NWSL this year is going to be great. I look forward to seeing what Harvey can do with her season year in Utah. I think there are a lot of players that have the potential to take a big step forward. I look forward to seeing if Utah can become greater than the sum of their parts.

Ian Knighton - Royals Contributor

Twitter: @ProbablyNotIan

Why do you support Utah Royals FC?

Like everyone that is in the orbit of the soapbox, I love soccer. I came to the sport far too late in life and have spent that last many years trying to make up for time lost. It didn’t take me too long to realize two things:

  1. Women’s soccer was phenomenal to watch.
  2. Women’s soccer was greatly under-served.

Unfortunately, it was also very inaccessible for most people, especially people that didn’t live in a city with a team. Sometime in 2017, I told my wife that if Utah ever had an NWSL team, I’d be the first one in line to buy season tickets. We only missed three matches last year, even with the 200+ mile commute between our home and the RioT. We enjoyed every minute of it.

I feel like Utah Royals are MY team. A team I’ve been involved with and following since the announcement was first made.

Favorite player to watch and why?

It’s a toss-up for me, so in true form, I’m going to give three answers.

Erika Tymrak: We missed the first two games of last season. That meant that our first real-life experience with the Royals was the match against Houston Dash. Erika scored the game-winner in the 51’ of the match. My Royals jersey has her name and number on it.

Katie Stengel: Katie plays the way I like to see the game be played. A lot of stand up play and a lot of making your own space. She also seems to not take herself too seriously, and I can appreciate that.

Gunnhildur “Gunny” Jónsdóttir: Gunny is an unstoppable force. She plays end to end for 90 minutes. She’s also my daughter’s favorite player. What more do I need to say?

Thoughts on upcoming season?

I think this season is going to be a real rollercoaster. Obviously, the World Cup is going to do a number to rosters, but I think it will really expose the depth of a lot of teams. From what I’ve seen of this year’s roster and the overlap with last year, I think the Royals will have a lot more depth than other teams that have enjoyed a lot of time at the top of the league. It presents a real opportunity to cover a lot of points during May and June to prevent being one or two points out at the end of the season.

Lucas Muller - Editor & Social Media Manager

Twitter: @lucaswmuller | Instagram: @lucaswmuller

Why do you support Utah Royals FC?

I’d followed the US Women’s National team for several years prior to Utah getting a team, but had only seen the NWSL marginally, mostly just watching the final each year. I was very excited for our city to get a professional women’s soccer team, and there was never a question for me if I would support them or not. It’s been impressive how well they’ve been treated, with the exception of the local broadcast. Utah Royals are very fortunate to have a phenomenal coach and great players. RSL is what got me into soccer, but URFC feels like an equally important team in my soccer support.

Favorite player to watch and why?

That’s a really difficult question to answer because this team has so much talent. I’ll go with Gunny Jónsdóttir. She gives everything, every game. She’s also the only player that has played every minute of every Royals game. Gunny fights for everything and makes meaningful contributions on both sides of the ball. She’s also super expressive, which is fun when I’m photographing games.

Thoughts on the upcoming season?

2019 should be a good season for the Royals. The World Cup may prove to be more difficult to our team than any others, since URFC have so many international players, but I think that’s an obstacle the team can overcome. It’s an opportunity for non-starters to step up and prove themselves. 2018 felt a little rushed; everything was so news and fresh, and that meant, at times, things didn’t quite gel. This year has the promise of a deeper connection on the field. Laura Harvey knows her players, has brought in some new people, and 2019 is looking bright.

Ryan Kelly - Royals Senior Writer, URFC Show Co-Host

Twitter: @sirveaux24 | Instagram: @sirveaux24

Why do you support Utah Royals FC?

I’ve spoken before about how the 2015 World Cup sparked my deeper interest in supporting women’s soccer. Suffice it to say that the time I spent supporting and working with the now-defunct RSL Women team only helped my desire to see growth in the sport in a big way. Having a professional team in my home state means I can personally contribute in getting women’s soccer to a place I feel it deserves, where we truly value the talent that has made the United States the only three-time World Cup winning national team.

Favorite player to watch and why?

Since I’ve not yet gotten a chance to see my favorite Royal play (Note: I’m so excited for Mandy this season), I really enjoy watching Becca Moros on the field. I often compare her to former RSL defender Chris Wingert: smart, physical, and determined to contain the opposing attack on her side of the field. There’s never any question that she’s given everything for her team.

Thoughts on the upcoming season?

There’s so many unknowns and variables that it’s hard to make a solid prediction, but there are some things to be excited about. Christen Press gets a full preseason with the team and can feel more comfortable in her role. Everyone on the team knows the World Cup is coming, and that they have to be ready to step into the roles that the departing internationals will leave open for the middle of the season. There’s a chance to show what you can do, and that makes players give their best in order to earn time on the pitch. We should see a very hard-working and motivated team that Laura Harvey can guide to greater success, building off the strong first season they had.