At age 38 Nicole Barnhart is Utah Royals FC’s oldest, and most experienced player. Much like her counterpart Nick Rimando on the men’s side, she has had a lengthy career with 16,538 minutes over 184 games (including playoffs), during which she had 67 shutouts. She also had 54 international caps on the USWNT with 24 shutouts. For 2019 she may have played more minutes, but took a step back in the amount of saves made.
The most experienced keeper in NWSL had a much better start to the season than ending. The first three games of 2019 were 1-0 shutouts, with one more from the next 3 matches for a respectable April-May. However the tide started turning with June and July having only one win and two draws from 8 games; it is credit to Barnhart and the defensive line that they only gave up at most 2 goals until a single game in late September.
It is an odd note that what was probably her best game was the 1-0 win vs Portland where she kept the clean sheet in the face of 23 shots, blocking all 6 shots on goal; then undoubtedly her weakest run of games hit which saw the Royals lose the next 4 games, including a 3-0 home loss vs North Carolina Courage. During that run there were some goals that looked like they should have been easy saves. Perhaps age had finally caught up with her?
Nicole Barnhart has been picked up for 2020. I expect that she will remain the starting keeper for next season, but can she keep it? If the rough trend from September continues in to 2020 how long will the new Royals coach wait before making the switch to the younger Abby Smith? Barnhart has done some coaching back in 2011 for her old college team Stanford, could that be an early indication for her career path after retirement? She could be very beneficial as an asst. coach for the Royals, or for the Royals Reserves team.