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Roundtable: Who should URFC protect in the Expansion Draft?

RSL Soapbox members talk about who they think Utah Royals FC should protect.

OL Reign v Utah Royals FC

Last week, The National Women’s Soccer League announced the rules of the 2020 NWSL Expansion Draft. We now know teams can protect up to 11 players, including US allocated players. However, only two US allocated players can be protected, so teams like the Portland Thorns may lose a US allocated player during the draft. RSL Soapbox members talk about who they think Utah Royals FC should protect.

Dave Cheever

My feeling is that Louisville is moving full speed along the Macario Express which means they will not be tempted to take WNT Allocated Players and lose out on the allocation money. It must also be noted that I am, undoubtedly, am the least sentimental of the writers here on RSL Soapbox. These picks are designed to give Utah a core to put on the field next season as I expect no large trades or new signings in the current environment of changing ownership and rapid expansion. Three of these eleven (Boquete, Rodriquez, and Smith) will need to sign new contacts with the Royals to return.

  1. Rachel Corsie
  2. Elizabeth Ball
  3. Kate Del Fava
  4. Veronica Boquete
  5. Lo’eau LaBonta
  6. Amy Rodriquez
  7. Desiree Scott
  8. Michelle Vasconcelos
  9. Tziara King
  10. Katie Bowen
  11. Abby Smith

Pete Busche

Groupings of players: Absolute locks, Culture-setting locks, Lock to Trade, Lock to Maintain Competency and Investment, and “Ok to Take.” Any remaining players are either older veterans that don’t necessarily play into URFC’s long-term future or less-proven younger players. All locks (excluding the “locks to trade” category) are 27 or younger, with the ageless Scott as the exception.

Absolute Locks: Both are obvious for stand-out talent, potential, and leadership on and off the field, even as rookies

  1. Tziarra King
  2. Kate Del Fava

Culture-Setting Locks

3. Michelle Vasconcelous: A player that actually WANTS to live and play in Utah was a great pickup for the Royals this year.

4. Lo’eau LaBonta: A great bridge between Royals 1.0 and 2.0. I’d love to see her be a staple for the team for years to come.

5. Desiree Scott: Consistent effort and toughness that younger players can look to for leadership

Lock to Trade (later):

6. Christen Press: As soon as possible, trade to Angel City FC for the best draft assets

7. Rachel Corsie: If she chooses to continue to return to the NWSL and play into the future, I think any club would love to have her on their roster to shore up a defense

8. Amy Rodriguez: Can continue to bridge the team to Royals 2.0, but I’m sure she’d love to finish her career in California, either Sacramento or Angel City.

Lock to Maintain Competency & Investment:

9. Elizabeth Ball: Solid defender, not a lot of depth or experience after losing Sauerbrunn

10. Gaby Vincent: I’m a full Vincent-believer. Didn’t see much time this year, but I don’t want to give up on her potential yet

11. Michelle Maemone: Showed promise in her 2 years in the NWSL, arguably provides the best service of any past URFC outside backs (unless we count the few minutes O’Hara provided)

  • *Honorable mention: Brittany Ratcliffe. Thought she was all around pretty good this year and still a favorite super-sub for her versatile speed. Would love to see her back and could easily switch her and Maemone.

Ok to Take:

  • Kelley O’Hara: Based on the NWSL expansion rules this time around, if Louisville picks O’Hara, she would be the only URFC player allowed (nice for the stability of the rest of the roster), and URFC gets $75,000 case (bonus!). Also her total minutes played in Utah…it’s been well documented.
  • Abby Smith & Nicole Barnhart: The rationale here is that even with expansion there are several great goalkeepers on other teams’ benches, or even through the draft.
  • Vero Boquete: We’ll see if she’s interested in signing/coming back to the NWSL after her contract expired. She’s an outstanding, creative engine on the field, but her return may not totally be in URFC’s hands.

Ian Knighton

I’m going to preface with my picks are about 50% devoid of any strategy or real consideration for what would be left. A lot of these picks are just emotional and cultural. Given a draft and trades, I believe spots can be filled, but I wanted to think about how this team goes forward after a very wild 2020. I’m also just basing off of who shows on the current roster.

Maybe there have been some moves I missed in these wild couple months. Roast me, amigos!

  1. Tziarra King

Veronica Boquete (and re-sign her as soon as possible)

  1. Katie Bowen
  2. Gunny Jonsdottir
  3. Rachel Corsie
  4. Desiree Scott
  5. Abby Smith
  6. Aminata Diallo
  7. Amy Rodriguez
  8. Brittany Ratcliffe
  9. Tziarra King

Stockton Mair

There are a lot of hard decisions that may have to be made this offseason, and this is the first occasion those decisions will have to be made. After a lot of thinking, this is my list of 11 players I think we should protect.

  1. Amy Rodriguez: Amy is a huge part of the leadership of the team and our offense. We need to keep her as we transition into a new era of the team.
  2. Elizabeth Ball: Ball was Utah’s best defender in the strange year of 2020. Keeping her to be the leader on defense is crucial.
  3. Vero Boquete: Vero Boquete is a HUGE part of the offense and losing her in the expansion draft would be a huge mistake. We may lose her anyways to a team in Europe, but we need her.
  4. Christen Press: She is not currently part of our team, but we need to protect her rights. There’s not much of a chance she plays for us again, but we need to get assets for her.
  5. Kate Del Fava: Del Fava was a huge asset during the NWSL Challenge Cup. She played well and provides needed youth and depth.
  6. Tziarra King: Tziarra showed quite a bit of promise this season, scoring a couple of great goals and looking dangerous on the offense. She’s the future and we need to keep her.
  7. Lo’Eau LaBonta: Lo’eau has been a huge boost to the midfield, helping on both sides of the ball. We need to keep her to help keep the midfield stable.
  8. Michelle Maemone: Michelle played in the midfield this year and looked good. She can provide depth in both positions and also provides youth to the team.
  9. Desiree Scott: URFC missed “The Destroyer” in the midfield this year. She’s been a huge presence for Utah when she plays and should stay.
  10. Gaby Vincent: Gaby didn’t play very much at all this year, but in the time she’s gotten as a player for the Royals, she’s looked good. She provides depth and can be a defender of the future.
  11. Abby Smith: This final spot was hard, but I feel like we need to protect Abby Smith. She’s shown a lot of promise and is much younger and heathier than Nicole Barnhart.

I think we need to leave Kelley O’Hara unprotected because of her recent injury history and because it’s known she doesn’t want to be here. If we leave her unprotected it’s possible she isn’t picked, and if she is, then we don’t have to worry about trying to trade her.

Final Notes

The Expansion Draft is set to take place on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 at 7p.m. ET. The protected/unprotected player lists will be distributed to all teams on Nov. 5, 2020 by 1 p.m. ET. A public release of those lists will follow.