Challenge Cup Preview: Utah Royals FC
Challenge Cup hosts look to make some noise
Vero Boquete's creativity in midfield will be on full display in the Challenge Cup (Photo credit:  Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos)
Vero Boquete's creativity in midfield will be on full display in the Challenge Cup (Photo credit: Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos)

Team Name: Utah Royals FC

Head Coach: Craig Harrington, former Red Stars assistant, hired in February 2020

Last Year’s Finish: 10-4-10, 6th overall

Despite fading late in the season to narrowly miss out on their first playoff appearance in the franchise’s short history, Laura Harvey’s final season in Utah saw standout seasons from a number of its stars. Christen Press played some of her best soccer for club and country, tallying eight NWSL goals – the most for her since 2017. Amy Rodriguez had a renaissance season in the attack as well, leading Royals FC with nine goals on the season. Finally, Spanish international Vero Boquete lived up to her billing in her first NWSL season, notching six assists.

Key Players In: Aminata Diallo, Tziarra King, Elizabeth Ball, Taylor Leach, Arielle Ship

Key Players Out: Christen Press (DNP), Becky Sauerbrunn, Becca Moros, Katie Stengel

Player to Watch: Tziarra King (FWD)

With Christen Press’ absence and Katie Stengel’s trade to Houston, Utah hosts the Challenge Cup missing 10 of their twenty-five goals scored from last season. Amy Rodriguez will certainly make some noise going forward, but Craig Harrington will need someone from the remainder of his six forwards to help power the Royals attack. Enter the highly-touted Tziarra King, who enters the league after a forty-eight goal, nineteen assist college career at NC State. A versatile attacker with an abundance of energy and creativity, look for the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft to let her infectious personality run rampant in this Challenge Cup. 

Challenge Cup Outlook: Many of last year’s banner performers for Royals FC won’t be present this summer, but there’s still much to look forward to in Craig Harrington’s first time leading the side. Ball and Leach are versatile and talented young signings to soften the loss of Becky Sauerbrunn and Diallo is an exciting addition to a Utah midfield that boasts Boquete. Harrington is building a roster and culture to win in the long-term, but don’t be shocked if the Challenge Cup hosts make some noise right off the bat.

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