The excitement of a new season can only be described as the childhood giddiness one gets on Christmas Eve, sitting at the top of the stairs peaking through the banisters for a glimpse for what might be underneath the tree.
This year’s offseason has brought many changes for Utah Royals FC, a sense of newness can be felt in every aspect of the team, from the coaching staff to the players to the training kits and the leadership. It's a fresh start for all, further amplifying the excitement.
The most notable of the changes is Craig Harrington, who got his first training session under his belt as Head Coach and a chance to see the talent he will have to work with this upcoming season.
“I’m just excited -- It’s like Christmas day,” Harrington said. “I know most of the presents that I’ve got and some that I don’t, but I’m just happy that they are all there under the tree.”
When Harrington took over the reins last month, he inherited a squad that looked vastly different than the one he faced off against during his time with the Chicago Red Stars.
The club added defender Taylor Leach, forward Arielle Ship and midfielder Chestley Strother, and bulked up its youth contingent with three players from the 2020 NWSL College Draft -- Kate Del Fava, Cyera Hintzen and Tziarra King. On the flip side the club said goodbye to seven players from last year including team captain Becky Sauerbrunn.
One of his first tasks as Head Coach was to fill some pretty big leadership holes, most notably the vacated captain position. It was forward Amy Rodriguez who was tabbed to take the arm band, an announcement that was met with cheers from the remaining roster before the start of the first training session.
Rodriguez led the team with nine goals last season, good for the third in the league. The forward takes over as captain with a vast and illustrious career to back her which is one of the reasons Harrington felt confident to turn over the role to her.
“Amy has always been a player that I’ve admired,” Harrington said. “She embodies everything that I want this team to be just from a purely non-skill part, and then when you add how good of a soccer player she is with the work rate, the drive, the enthusiasm and the lion mentality on the field plus the quality that she has makes it a non-brainer. She’s won World Cups, NWSL Championships, Olympics Games -- She’s a winner and that is what we need in our locker room.”
And with that lion mentality the team attacked the first training session, getting in some touches and some small-sided matches as they prepare to welcome everyday with the same excitement each day as if it were Christmas morning.