Utah Royals coach Laura Harvey, who has a track record of bringing international talent to the NWSL, has made the first international signing of her tenure in Utah.
The Royals have signed Icelandic midfielder Gunnhildur Jonsdottir, the team announced Wednesday. At the end of her contract with Norwegian club Vålerenga, Jonsdottir will be added to the Utah roster pending receipt of her P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.
“I am so excited and grateful for the opportunity to play for Utah Royals FC this year,” Jonsdottir said in a team release. “I have heard such great things about Laura, and I know I will learn a lot from her. In my conversations with Laura and the other Utah staff, I can already tell there is a great support system, and level of commitment from everyone involved.”
Harvey has found success in securing international signings—usually by tapping into her overseas connections—since her arrival in the United States. In the Seattle Reign’s inaugural year, Harvey signed Welsh midfielder Jess Fishlock. Named to the named to the 2017 NWSL Best XI, Fishlock has since established herself as one of the top players in the league.
Again facing the challenge of building a new club, Harvey has turned to overseas to supplement the FC Kansas City roster she inherited when the club ceased operations this fall.
“I would definitely look to bring in some international talent if it was the right talent,” Harvey told The Salt Lake Tribune when she was hired in November. “It’s not that Kansas City didn’t want to do that, it just wasn’t necessarily how they built their roster.”
With Jonsdottir’s signing, the 29-year-old ends a five-year stint in Norway with four different clubs. She began her club career in Iceland. At 14 years old Jonsdottir appeared in a top-flight match for the first time. She has since amassed over 200 club appearances. The Iceland international has earned just shy of 50 caps with her home country.
“Gunny is a player that I think will transition well into the NWSL, as she has played at international levels and numerous leagues around Europe,” Harvey said in the team release. “Her experience will be great for the group. Her enthusiasm on the field is infectious. I’m glad we could complete this deal as I think it is another huge statement for our club.”
Royals defenders Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara were two of 26 players called in for U.S. Women’s national team January training camp.
The USWNT veterans’ inclusion on the roster came as no surprise. Sauerbrunn has 135 caps with the United States, and O’Hara has 104.
“It feels good every time you get called in because there’s no guarantee,” O’Hara said. “You could be called in for years at a time, and then the phone doesn’t ring anymore. So it’s always a good feeling to be confirmed for camp.”