Quote Sheet: URFC 1-0 NJ

Utah Royals FC 1-0 Sky Blue FC
Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah
Saturday, June 15, 2019

Utah Royals FC
Head Coach Laura Harvey

Initial reactions:
“I said to the girls at the end there in the huddle, sometimes you win pretty. Sometimes you win ugly. Sometimes you grind it out, and I thought tonight was - probably outside of Amy's goal, the corner with (Sam Johnson), that was pretty, and a couple of things Vero did before she had to go off – the rest was just a grind. Sometimes games are like that. And I say this a lot - I think last year we wouldn't have won that game. I think that's what is propelling us on every week is there's just something different about this group that we've got a mentality where don't want to be beaten and we wish we could make it easier on ourselves. We want to do that, unfortunately, when you get an injury to one of the most creative players that can nullify the pretty. And it also means that the substitution patterns that we planned out and we're hoping to do, we couldn't do. So, definitely not the performance we wanted, but win your home games.”

On unsatisfactory wins:
“I’m ok with ugly wins if we win.  And there were a lot of things tonight that we didn’t do well enough and we need to solve that.  Losing Lo’eau (LaBonta) for two games was big.  You put a lot of pressure on Mandy (Laddish) and Gunny (Jónsdóttir).  Gunny played on Thursday in Finland for 90 minutes and she’s just played another 90 minutes and that’s just nuts.  Mandy was supposed to play 60 and we dragged her to 80.  There’s all these things that go on and we’re never going to make excuses about, but it means that we’re putting a lot of pressure on players that we didn’t want to do that to.  I will always take a win.  I like ugly wins in the sense that we know we’ve got things to work on.  We’ve got two huge games coming up.  For me, I think these three games define our season and we’ve started it off in a positive way with three points.”

On why this stretch defines the season:
“I just think these are the games last year that we didn’t win.  We had this stretch last year, roughly against the same teams, and we didn’t win any of them.  It’s what made us go from having a real chance to then clinging on.  We started off with three points.  The players know that this next chunk of three games is vital to our season.”

On Vero’s injury:
“It massively changes it.  Her ability on the ball, to create space, the players in front of her have so much time to move because they are so comfortable that she’s going to give it to them.  We went with Mal (Weber) coming on because we felt we were going to have to dig in and defend.  The momentum was with them at that time.  I thought Mal came on and did really well defensively and showed some spark on the ball, but she’s not the same type of player as Vero.  I think it definitely affected the way we attacked – it put more onus on Katie, Amy and Erika.  There were periods in the second half when those three didn’t affect the game too much, but I felt in the last 10 minutes even when we were hanging on a little bit, whenever we got the ball to them three, we still looked like we could be a threat, which was great.”

On the backline:
“I felt Gabi and (Sam Johnson) were excellent.  I thought they were very, very solid.  I felt that Syd did brilliantly when she came in.  I think teams have gone after Michelle and Gabi a little bit and I just felt we needed someone who was more of just a defender.  Syd is naturally a center back.  And I think when Syd came in, she did brilliantly in that position, which we’d been a little bit exposed in.  I thought the backline did well, especially the two centerbacks.”

On Amy Rodriguez this year vs. last year:
“I think anyone who goes through an ACL injury has the same type of journey that A-Rod had that the first six months back after being clear is always really difficult because it’s all the sharpness and the game savvyness – especially for someone in Amy’s position.  This year, she’s just been phenomenal.  I think her workrate, her ability to move, how threatening she is when she goes forward – there’s not many people in this league that can score a goal like she did tonight.  It’s so much hard work for them to do that – running that far with the ball is pretty tiring.  She’s one of the best in the world at doing that.  That’s what she’s created a career off of, honestly.”

On the youth on the field:
“In a World Cup year, when we are preparing for the World Cup year, we’re planning the best we can with the Draft and throw a few darts and hope a few darts stick with the players you bring in.  I’ll give a lot of credit to Scott.  He did loads of work and preparation for the Draft on what we needed and what players we felt we’d be able to get at the picks that we had.  After that, we really highlighted players that hadn’t been drafted – Gabi as an example – and invited them to the tryout.  From that, I think Gabi, Michelle and Raisa have been huge.  AK has been excellent in training – making it difficult for the other players around her.  I think that their influence on training is pushing the older players.  So I think it’s been huge for us.  We prepared for it, so I’m not going to say it’s too much luck.  Especially when you’re picking at 23 or wherever we were in the Draft, you do have to throw a few darts out and hope that they stick.  I think that Michelle and Gabi are great examples that you can play at this level if you’re willing to give it a go, and thankfully they did.”

Forward Amy Rodriguez

On her goal:
“I just remember it being a quick throw-in, maybe a pass or two, and then I just kind of carried with it. I felt like the Jersey defense kind of set off me a little bit. I just took my space, head up and thought I could go for it. I honestly didn’t think I could score from there, but I tried my best on it and I’m happy that it hit the back of the net.”

On the rest of the game:
“The typical story of ours is that we usually go up early in the game and then I think we’ve let our foot off the gas pedal a little bit. I felt like we did that today, but there was also a side of us that brought so much grit, so much hard work. We fought for those three points. I think Jersey was kind of taking it to us at the end. We didn’t have girls stopping, we had bodies behind the ball, we had players running their tails off, and that’s what you need to grind out wins in this league. I’m really proud of my teammates today, I’m really proud of the work everybody put in and the subs that came on, they did excellent. I’m just really happy to walk away with three points.”

On Vero Boquete’s injury:
“Losing Vero is detrimental. We were bummed for her, we didn’t really know what happened on the play and unfortunately, a little bit of a knock and she had to come out. She’s a crucial part of our attack, she’s got such a foothold in that midfield for us, so missing her is tough. I was really pleased with the substitutions that came on, I thought we tried to fill the gap as best as possible. We came out with three points, which we’re really happy about.”

On the state of the team a third of the way through the season:
“We know that every game is crucial. Getting points early on feels so much better, so you’re not chasing towards the end. A huge goal of ours is to make the playoffs this year and we’ve got to keep trekking, we’ve got to keep getting those three points, and tonight helped us do that.”

On getting three points with six players gone for the World Cup:
“We miss our national team players dearly. I think we’ve got six out right now and those leave huge holes in our gameplan. We know that this month-long little stint is important for us to gain as many points as we can until we can get those players back. Really proud of the team and the players that are out there working hard, our bench, all of us are putting in the work so that we can get as many points as possible for when our national team players come back.”

On the total team defensive performance:
“Defense is a huge part of this team and it’s a reason why we win so many games and it’s a reason why we walk away with so many clean sheets. Credit to Barnie [Nicole Barnhart] in goal tonight, I thought she did excellent, some huge saves for us. All-around, the team defense was excellent as well — we just kept going, and going, and we didn’t give up. That’s what it takes to win in this league. Credit to our defense, credit to the whole team, credit to Barnie tonight for keeping a clean sheet.”

On the attention the World Cup brings to the NWSL:
“The World Cup is huge for women’s soccer and the visibility for this league. I hope fans are excited about the World Cup, enjoying the World Cup. I hope we can gain a few more Royals fans, for the Utah people that are out here. Again, it’s a really exciting time for women’s soccer and I hope there is a trickle-down effect with our NWSL. I hope people come out and watch because it is an exciting game and we’ve got some excellent players in this league.”

Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart

How she kept the back line organized:
“I think for the most part our back line was very organized. The chances they got were mostly from outside, nothing too close to the goal and our backline was willing to put their bodies on the line a couple of times and block a few dangerous chances that they did get. I think it was just a gritty effort all over starting from the front to the back line.”

On how the World Cup changes have affected the team:
“I think the rookies have stepped in and done a great job. We knew that there was going to be change coming into the season and that was something that we prepared for; our coaching staff prepared for it before the season even started. We train every day, push everybody so that when they do step in, nothing changes much. I think collectively we’ve done a pretty decent job throughout the course of the season so far defensively with our backline and with so many changes and with some rookies having to step in there. The rookies have been impressive to me.”

On her responsibility to teach the rookies:
“Being one of the veterans on the team, one of the leaders on the team, and especially the one that sees everything going on on the field I love helping them and guiding them. I was in that position at one point a long time ago. I know where they are, I know what they feel and I think they have a lot of potential so I’m going to push them and help them to get there.”

On how she feels this season coming back from an injury:
“I feel good. I feel like I’m playing some of my best soccer ever and moving better than I have. Hopefully I can carry that out for a few more years but I’m happy with where I am right now and want to keep getting better and keep improving over the course of the season.”

On the change in the lineups:
“This group has been training really hard for weeks now and we prepare as best we can going into the games. We know it's going to be a little bit challenging without those other players here but we also knew coming in that there was going to be a good chunk of the season where this was going to be our group and this was going to be our core group. We just needed to prepare this core group to go out and play and try and get results. So far we’re doing a pretty decent job at that we have ourselves in a fairly decent spot in the standings and we still have two more big games coming up in this little stretch so we do still need to get some points out of these next few games and be in a really good spot.”