The 2019 season for Utah Royals FC has been nothing short of memorable. The team’s second season in the NWSL has been filled with jaw-dropping moments both on and off the field that left fans cheering, screaming, crying and filled with absolute pride. While it’s difficult to encompass everything that has happened during the past seven months, we tried and came up with our top ten moments ahead of the season finale on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
1. Royals FC Trio Wins FIFA Women’s World Cup
During the middle of the season, forward Christen Press and defenders Kelley O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn departed from Utah to be part of the United States Women’s National Team in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. The trio contributed to an undefeated run on the way to the final in which the Red, White and Blue defeated Netherlands 2-0 to clinch the squad’s second-consecutive World Cup title. In the tournament Press scored one goal and added an assist, O’Hara also recorded two assists. On the defensive side O’Hara and Sauerbrunn contributed to three shutouts on the road to World Cup glory.
2. Six Players Represent Utah on World’s Stage
In addition to the American trio, defenders Katie Bowen (New Zealand) and Rachel Corsie (Scotland) and midfielder Desiree Scott (Canada), took part in the historic FIFA Women’s World Cup with their respective national teams. Corsie captained the Scottish squad during its first trip to the tournament, while Bowen and Scott participated in their third tournament. Corsie and Bowen both made three appearances for their squads, while Scott played in four matches.
3. Kelley O’Hara Selected to World XI
Following her impressive run in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, defender Kelley O’Hara was selected to FIFPro’s World XI, one of the highest honors in professional soccer. O’Hara was one of five NWSL players and the only defender among them awarded the honor, joining Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.
4. Amy Rodriguez Nominated for FIFA Puskas Award
On June 15 against Sky Blue FC, forward Amy Rodriguez broke the internet when she dribbled the ball up the entire length of the field and sent a rocket into the back of the net to give Utah the 1-0 victory. The goal was selected as the NWSL Goal of the Week before being recognized again when she was one of ten players to be nominated for the 2019 FIFA Puskas award, given to player who scores the world’s best goal each year.
5. Utah Royals FC and Nicole Barnhart’s Record-Breaking Shutouts
Throughout the season, Utah Royals FC goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart led the league in shutouts, keeping clean sheets in 10 matches, the second-most in a single season in league history, a record previously set by Barnhart in 2013 with the former FC Kansas City.
6. Mandy Laddish’s Return to the Pitch
After suffering a near career-ending injury to her hip in September of 2016, midfielder Mandy Laddish returned to the pitch in the 79th minute during the season opener on April 20 against the Washington Spirit. Her return marked the first appearance for the midfielder in over two years after she missed the entirety of the 2017 and 2018 seasons with two separate hip surgeries.
7. Becky Sauerbrunn Scores Against Portland Thorns
On September 6, defender Becky Sauerbrunn netted her first Utah Royals FC goal and first at the club level since May 27, 2017 with the former FC Kansas City. Her goal would prove to be the game-winner in the 1-0 victory, marking the first time in club history that Utah had ever beaten Portland.
8. Rookie Gaby Vincent Goes From Trialist to Full Contract Player
Prior to the beginning of the season defender Gaby Vincent came to Utah as a trialist and after impressing the coaching staff she was signed to a supplemental contract. During the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Vincent was tasked with starting in seven matches in the absence of the international players. Her impressive play during the FIFA break led to the young defender earning a full contract, the only rookie to do so this season while garnering the attention of the U-23 United States Women’s National Team, for which she was called in for the 2019 Nordic tournament.
9. Lo’eau LaBonta’s Rise in the Ranks
In 2018, Lo’eau LaBonta started only eight matches for Utah. This season she started in 21 matches, only missing two due to a suspension during the World Cup. In addition, she became a vital part of the attack recording two goals and two assists while creating an additional 16 chances on goal, doubling her numbers from last season.
10. Attendance Growth at Rio Tinto Stadium
Through 11 home games at Rio Tinto Stadium Utah Royals FC has increased its average home attendance per game by over one thousand people per game. In its inaugural season, Utah averaged 9,466 fans each match, this year they have averaged 10,889, the second-highest in the league behind the Portland Thorns FC. Overall Utah has seen 119,775 fans come through the doors at the RioT to support URFC in 2019, highlighted by 18,015 at the home opener and 15,931 in July when the club celebrated the returns of its World Cup stars.
These ten moments cover only a portion of all the incredible moments from the 2019 season and help paint a picture of the success of Utah in its second season. Now that you’ve had a chance to see our top 10, let us know yours. Are there any we missed? And once you’ve picked your Top 10, help us celebrate all these and more in the final match of the year on Saturday, October 12 at 7:00 p.m. MT against the Houston Dash. Fans can purchase tickets to the match at UtahRoyalsFC.com or by calling 844.REAL.TIX.