SANDY, Utah (Saturday, September 8, 2018) – Utah Royals FC announced the team’s season-ending award winners for 2019, which were based on voting by URFC players. Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart was voted the Most Valuable Player, while DF Becky Sauerbrunn was selected as the Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. FW Amy Rodriguez won Goal of the Year for her wonder goal against Sky Blue FC on June 15, as well as the Golden Boot, leading the team with nine goals.
GK Nicole Barnhart:
URFC Most Valuable Player
Nicole Barnhart became the anchor of the defense for Utah Royals FC in the 2019 season, leading the league with 10 clean sheets in 24 appearances. Her 10 clean sheets also mark the second-most for a single season in league history. This year Barnhart earned a 71.1 percent success rate between the posts, highlighted by a six-save match against Portland Thorns FC on September 6, leading to the team’s first ever victory over Portland. Overall she made 61 saves to finish fifth in the league. Additionally, she was honored as the Save of the Week recipient during week 21 and was nominated for the award on eight other occasions.
DF Becky Sauerbrunn:
Defender of the Year
In her second season in Utah, Becky Sauerbrunn was selected as the Defender of the Year for the second-consecutive time. Sauerbrunn contributed to six clean sheets and added 81 clearances, the second-most on the team, in 14 matches. In addition, she netted her first goal for Utah, and first since 2017, a game-winner against Portland Thorns FC on September 6. While not with the squad, Sauerbrunn contributed to the United States Women’s National Team winning its second-consecutive FIFA Women’s Word Cup.
FW Amy Rodriguez:
Goal of the Year
Amy Rodriguez uncharacteristically made national headlines when she scored against Sky Blue on June 15. However, it wasn’t the act of scoring the goal, because Rodriguez has made a name for herself as a goal scoring machine, but rather the nature in how she did it. The lead up to the goal began with Rodriguez stripping the ball from an opposing player in the team’s defensive third. From there she dribbled the ball up towards the middle of the field, dodging her opponents while maintaining control. Then from deep outside the18-yard-box Rodriguez stunned the crowd when she pulled back and sent off a rocket past the Sky Blue goalkeeper. The stunner earned her the NWSL Goal of the Week award in the days following, but it also gained world attention when it was selected as one of the 10 goals nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award, recognizing the top goals in world soccer.
FW Amy Rodriguez:
Amy Rodriguez led the team with nine goals this season. She started in all 24 games for Royals FC, scoring all eight goals in individual matches. The forward accounted for two game-winning goals and was voted the Goal of the Week recipient twice. Her offensive performance won her a spot on the NWSL Team of the Month in May, June and August. Finally, her goal against Sky Blue FC on June 15 earned her international plaudits as it was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award and was selected by her fellow teammates as the Utah Royals FC Goal of the Year.
GK Abby Smith:
Humanitarian of the Year
In the club’s second year in Salt Lake City Abby Smith played an integral role in building the bridge between Utah Royals FC and the RSL Foundation, logging the most hours in the community. Smith participated in numerous events around the city, including the second-annual Goals for Girls Leadership Summit at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah. In addition, Smith visited several schools around the area as part of the Playworks initiative and the RSL Foundation's Scoring for Schools program, helping kids stay active and build valuable life skills through play. In addition, Smith partnered with her sponsor, Nike, to help donate over 100 soccer balls, including 24 to youth team who fell victim to the El Paso shooting in Texas.
Utah Royals FC All-Time Season-Ending Award Recipients
URFC Most Valuable Player: Nicole Barnhart (2019), Becky Sauerbrunn (2018)
URFC Golden Boot Award: Amy Rodriguez (2019), Katie Stengel (2018)
URFC Defensive Player of the Year: Becky Sauerbrunn (2019), Becky Sauerbrunn (2018), Rachel Corsie (2018)
URFC Humanitarian of the Year: Abby Smith (2019), Amy Rodriguez (2018)