Utah Royals FC ended up making only two picks in the four-round 2018 NWSL draft on Thursday, but by the draft’s close they had acquired another Canadian women’s national team player, brought in a Utah native and added depth at goalkeeper.
Moments before the start of Thursday’s NWSL College Draft, the Royals made their first move.
The newest NWSL club traded for Canadian national team midfielder Diana Matheson. In exchange, the Royals sent Yael Averbuch and their third-round draft pick to the Seattle Reign. Utah used its remaining picks to select BYU defender Taylor Isom and Duke goalkeeper E.J. Proctor.
“Draft day is always nuts,” Royals coach Laura Harvey said, “but yeah, it was a good day overall.”
Matheson has earned 191 caps and scored 17 goals for Canada. Her most famous goal came in the 92nd minute of the 2012 World Cup bronze-medal game against France, securing the Canadian team’s first medal in Olympic history.
Matheson has scored 23 goals in her NWSL career, and Royals coach Laura Harvey traded for her a year ago when Harvey was in Seattle.
However, Matheson again tore her ACL while training with the Canadian national team ahead of the NWSL season and was unable to take the field for the Reign last year.
“Diana’s like the ultimate professional,” Harvey said. “Fantastic person, fantastic teammate, a real player that as a coach you just love to have on your team because, yes, she wants to be successful herself, but she showed last year in Seattle when she had to sit the season out with her injury that it’s not all about her — it’s definitely about the team.”
Trading their No. 25 pick left the Royals with the No. 14 and 34 choices.
The Royals received that 25th pick in a trade last month that also landed them U.S. national women’s team defender Kelley O’Hara and midfielder Taylor Lytle. In return RSL sent Sky Blue FC Shea Groom, Christina Gibbons and their fourth overall pick.
“The thing for me especially with a new team is an expectation around the team that we want to produce a product on the field that people want to come and watch, you know?” Harvey said of trading picks for players. “And I think having players with international experience, experience of what this league’s about can be a vital asset to get in a good start. And I think in this league if you can get a good start, you always have a good chance of being successful.”
With Utah’s first pick in club history, it selected Sandy native Isom. An Alta High School graduate, Isom was named first team All-State in 2011. As a four-year starter at BYU, Isom scored two goals and logged an assist.
Harvey called the 2017 All-West Coast Conference defender to give her the news, and Isom said Harvey’s first words to her were, “Girl, you’re staying home.”
The Royals selected Proctor in the fourth round. Named to the 2017 All-ACC first team, Proctor recorded a record 18 shutouts this past season. She will likely be a backup for veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, whose rights were assigned to Utah from defunct FC Kansas City.