In writing and reflecting on the Utah Royals FC brief history, it’s hard not to feel some pain mixed with the fondness and happy memories. Utah’s performance on September 6th, 2019 and Becky Sauerbrunn’s goal to finally beat the Portland Thorns will remain with me for life. Most of all, I want this post to be a salute to Becky Sauerbrunn, the ultimate “cerebral” defender (perhaps due her brilliant headers ), leader of the club and country, consummate professional and human being.
The September 6th, 2019 game encapsulated so much elation and pure soccer fan enjoyment, but also included a shameful racist incident, leading to the mixed memory. Following reports of racist chants towards Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch from a section of the RioT, Sauerbrunn promptly responded firmly and resolutely as to the position of herself and team.
This is totally unacceptable. There is NO place for racism in our game or anywhere, EVER. https://t.co/itvhWSiLb3— Becky Sauerbrunn (@beckysauerbrunn) September 7, 2019
The Utah Royals past will be tinged with the racism and sexism of ownership, management, and spectators, but Sauerbrunn represented the best of the Royals: constantly fighting for racial and gender equality, and countless excellence on the field.
First, Sauerbrunn left her back-to-back NWSL champion “home-away-from-home” in Kansas City to help start a new team in yet another place that wasn’t her actual home, away from her boyfriend & cats. She committed to help Utah establish itself as a premier WOSO hotspot; and has repeatedly exemplified the USWNT anti-diva.
Perhaps more important than Sauerbrunn’s legacy than the multiple World Cup victories for the USWNT & multiple NWSL championships has been her championing of equality for women, including within US Soccer. For the past 5 years, Sauerbrunn has been at the forefront of legal battles for equal pay, treatment, promotion of the U.S. Women’s National Team, as Caitlin Murray documents in the “National Team.”
Ok-now just watch this brilliant goal:
I remember watching the gorgeous setup from Christen Press, and then straining my eyes to see who actually headed it in (I didn’t recognize them at first-my brain set to scan for attacking players).
“OH MY GOSH! That’s Becky!” I screamed at the empty seat next me after the replay showed on the jumbotron. Alas, my wife was still in line at a food truck to get our dinner (we always ate before games after this experience).
The goal would be the lone score in a 1-0 game in which Utah’s defense, in particular Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Nichole Barnhart, worked to stymie a Portland attack that outshot Utah 21 to 7.
“Most of the time when I score, we wind up losing the game,” Sauerbrunn said. “So this was a nice change.”
The skill to sneak the ball in far post in that narrow window, beating a diving Franch (then the 2-time reigning NWSL Goalkeeper of the year) is just masterful. Then the fact that center-back Sauerbrunn’s first celebratory hug is fellow center-back mate Rachel Corsie, it was icing on the Becky cake.
As someone myself who isn’t into having much of an online or social media presence, Becky Sauerbrunn is someone I will gladly tie my name to in order to help promote & celebrate a top soccer player and American.
Becky Sauerbrunn: Captain of the USWNT, captain of the Utah Royals, captain of our fandom’s memories.