Utah Royals protect 11 players for upcoming expansion draft

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Royals vs. Washington Spirit, soccer at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Saturday May 5, 2018. Utah Royals FC defender Kelley O'Hara (5) scores a goal. Defending is Washington Spirit midfielder Taylor Smith (7).

Utah Royals FC made its decision on which players it will and won’t protect for the upcoming expansion draft in the National Women’s Soccer League, and there are some high-profile players both lists.

The Royals will protect 11 players, including U.S. Women’s National Team defender Kelley O’Hara, who was rumored to have been traded to the Washington Spirit during the season. That deal never seemed to cross the finish line, and she even made an appearance during the NWSL Challenge Cup. She opted out of Fall Series however.

One of the main players left unprotected, though, is USWNT forward Christen Press. The forward, who was traded to Utah in the summer of 2018, signed a contract with Manchester United in early September.

The Royals still hold Press’s NWSL rights, but a team source with knowledge of the situation told The Salt Lake Tribune that there isn’t much confidence Press “will ever play for Utah again.”

In light of that, the Royals thought it would make more sense to leave her unprotected, the source said. If the new expansion team, Racing Louisville Football Club, chooses her, Utah will receive $75,000 in allocation money. That’s a better scenario than trading her and giving up players who actually want to play in Utah and can contribute in 2021, the source added.

Others who were protected include young up-and-comers Tziarra King, Kate Del Fava and Gabrielle Vincent. Michele Vasconcelos, the Utah native who recently joined the the team via trade, was also protected. Captain Amy Rodriguez was also protected and was offered a new contract last week.

Other players left unprotected were midfielder Vero Boquete, veteran goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart and Canadian national teamer Desiree Scott. All of those players have been part of the club’s core.

Boquete was offered a new contract, but she also has options in Europe.

The expansion draft is scheduled for Nov. 12, when Louisville will round out its new team.


Elizabeth Ball

Katie Bowen

Rachel Corsie

Kate Del Fava

Tziarra King

Lo’eau LaBonta

Kelley O’Hara

Amy Rodriguez

Abby Smith

Michele Vasconcelos

Gaby Vincent