Utah Royals FC getting healthy at just the right time

(Photo courtesy of Utah Royals FC) Veteran defender Rebecca Moros trains at American First Field on May 13 in Sandy, Utah. Moros started her first game of the season last week after rehabbing a knee injury.

Sandy • At the beginning of the season, the Utah Royals FC’s injury report was overflowing with names. From regular starters like Kelley O’Hara and Katie Stengel to rookies like Maddie Nolf, a team that would soon have up to seven players leave for Women’s World Cup duties for their respective national teams didn’t have the bodies available that would fill those boots.

In one game earlier this month, 10 players were unavailable due to injury or International duty. As a result, Utah did not have a full 18-woman game-day roster.

While some injuries have been so severe as to render players done for the season — Brittany Ratcliff tore her the ACL in her left knee and Taylor Lytle has been sidelined with a left foot injury — others have returned in recent weeks.

Mandy Laddish started the season returning from a devastating hip injury that kept her out more than two years. Makenzy Doniak played her first game of the season two weeks ago after suffering an ACL tear last year. Rebecca Moros, one of Utah’s veteran presences, returned just last week from a knee injury. Laddish and Moros have each appeared in the starting lineup since.

“Getting bodies is huge,” midfielder Lo’eau LaBonta said. “The talent is there. It’s just getting all these extra bodies and people getting healthy so that they can play full games and we’re not having to make so many subs because minutes have to be limited.”

Moros said the rash of injuries Utah experienced early in the season was likely due to players competing in other leagues in the offseason, which is normal in women’s soccer. It just so happened that the Royals caught some bad luck at the wrong time, she said.

Moros played 22 games last season and started all of them. She missed the first four games of 2019 before making her debut — and first start — in last week’s draw against the North Carolina Courage.

Moros said her teammates encouraged her take her time coming back from her injury while also hoping she returned quickly. Once she did make it back to full training sessions and eventually a game, the team’s collective discipline made the transition easy for her, she said.

With five players already officially on their World Cup rosters, getting other Royals healthy sooner rather than later has been a blessing in plain sight.

“It’s just good timing for us to have players coming back when we’re also losing players,” Moros said. “So I think everything’s very upbeat here and physically people are really on the right track and we’ve got our numbers and we’re feeling competitive and ready to go.”

(Photo courtesy of Utah Royals FC) Makenzy Doniak trains at American First Field on May 13 in Sandy, Utah. Doniak recently returned to action after recovering from an ACL tear.

Doniak, who was traded from the Courage to the Royals during her rehab, felt overjoyed when she stepped on the field for the first time this season against the Houston Dash. Utah will likely need her after defenders Rachel Corsie and Katie Bowen join their respective national teams. Doniak’s knee is structurally sound, she said, and so far she’s been putting the injury out of the back of her mind.

“Physically knowing I’m good and then mentally being able to perform is a big step,” Doniak said.

Harvey said Laddish and Doniak are at the point physically where they starting to push themselves, which is a welcome sign. And defender Sydney Miramontez, who played 10 games last season, has recently advanced to full training after nursing a right foot injury.

But for Saturday’s game against the Orlando Pride, Nolf is the only player not on international duty or with a season-ending injury who is not available to play.

“We’re close to having everyone healthy, which is obviously what we’ve wanted from Day 1,” Harvey said.


At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah

Kickoff » Saturday, 6 p.m. MDT

Last meeting » Orlando 2, URFC 1 (July 14, 2018, Rio Tinto Stadium)

Records » URFC 3-1-1, North Carolina 0-5-1

About Orlando » Pride have not won a game all season. … Sydney Leroux and Joanna Boyles are out. … Kristen Edmonds (left knee) and Alika Keene (right knee) are questionable. … Eight players are on international duty.

About URFC » Amy Rodriguez leads team with three goals. … Maddie Nolf (hip) is out. … Royals have not scored more than one goal all season. … In a three-way tie for second place with 10 points. … Rachel Corsie no longer with team due to International duty.