Utah Royals think new owner can ‘revamp’ club and bring ‘new identity’

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals FC forward Amy Rodriguez (8) celebrates her first half goal as Utah Royals FC hosts the Houston Dash at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday May 11, 2019. At left is Gunnhildur Jonsdottir.

The last few weeks have taken a toll on Utah Royals FC.

Although Dell Loy Hansen and Andy Carroll — the top two executives at Utah Soccer — are most known for their dealings with Real Salt Lake, they did bring the Royals to the Utah in 2018. And while at the time they received praise for providing top-notch facilities for their new National Women’s Soccer League players, recent revelations have stained that legacy.

Some Royals players were named in reporting that detailed the toxic culture Hansen and Carroll created while being atop the Utah Soccer hierarchy. Carroll wanted to only use “pretty” players in promotions and called others “ugly.” Other sexist and even racist comments have been attributed to them.

Royals coach Craig Harrington said Friday via videoconference that things were “really, really difficult for everybody here” in the immediate aftermath of the revelations. But the team seems ready to move on and focus on other things.

Forward Christen Press left the team for a loan with Manchester United. Utah native Michele Vasconcelos joined the Royals via trade. The team’s first game in the NWSL Fall Series is Sept. 20, and Harrington said training sessions have gone quite well for the most part.

Still, some on the team are looking forward the potential a new owner could bring.

“I’m excited for the new ownership to come in, whoever that might be,” team captain Amy Rodriguez said. “I’m excited to rally with them, to play for them, and also see what kind of positive change they bring to this club.”

Rodriguez said she had limited interaction with upper management. But in the times she did, she felt they were “professional and easy to work with.” That clearly was not the case, however, for the employees who worked with Carroll and/or Hansen on a regular basis. Rodriguez expressed disappointment in light of that.

“I think hindsight is always 20/20,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of us have now opened up a lot of conversation about how we feel about it and how we are not of that mindset and we’re not necessarily happy with some of the things that we’ve read and heard about.”

Harrington said it was “shocking” to hear the allegations that surfaced about Hansen and Carroll, adding that there have been several team and individual meetings, including ones centered on diversity. He said he was happy with the strong statements the teams released saying they did not tolerate racist or sexist comments and behavior.

“There’s no place for that in any part of our world, the planet,” Harrington said.

Rodriguez said her focus has been on the field amid all the off-the-field controversy. In her view, the job of her and her teammates is to play games. But that doesn’t mean she ignored what’s been going on in recent weeks.

“I really want to be proud of my emblem and my logo, be proud of the team I play for [and] represent, the city I play in,” Rodriguez said. “I’m hopeful that we can get to that point.”

Rodriguez has been proud of the URFC locker room, she said, because she feels every player is united in what they want to see the club represent moving forward.

“In this next coming bit, this is our time to kind of create a new identity for ourselves, create a new vibe, you could say, of the club — and hopefully one that is positive and includes change and expects equality and anti-racism,” Rodriguez said. “So that’s kind of the direction we’re moving in.”

Rodriguez credited ownership for what it built in regard to the Royals, who have the benefit of a top-notch locker room and a training facility that is the envy of many soccer teams in the United States. At the same time, the Royals are ready for change.

“I do think that there is potential in a positive change with a revamp,” Rodriguez said. “I like that word because it sounds like the ability to change things and hopefully improve and have an overall up-and-up feeling.”


Sept. 20 at Portland Thorns, 1 p.m.

Sept. 26 vs. OL Reign, 1:30 p.m.

Oct. 3 vs. Portland Thorns, 8 p.m.

Oct. 17 at OL Reign, 6 p.m.