During the 2019 NWSL College Draft on Thursday, Utah Royals FC head coach/acting general manager Laura Harvey both stayed true to form in some respects but also depart a bit from her modus operandi.
Harvey is well-known for using draft picks to help acquire established players rather than to select developmental prospects, and that was certainly a storyline Tuesday. URFC didn’t have a pick until the third round of the four-round draft because Harvey had previously traded three picks (including the first overall) as parts of deals for Christen Press and Makenzy Doniak.
On the flip side, Harvey is also known for being active on the trade market in general, although she didn’t make any moves on Thursday. Instead, she used two third-round selections and a fourth-round pick on players who she hopes can help add depth this summer as a bevy of players will miss a bunch of the season for the World Cup.
Pepperdine’s Michelle Maemone was selected 23rd overall, Penn State’s Maddie Nolf was taken with the 27th pick and URFC used the 32nd choice to add North Carolina’s Alex Kimball, who was born in Utah and trained with URFC some last summer.
Harvey told the Deseret News the main objective heading into Thursday was to find players who could add depth at defender, especially since most of the key players at those positions on the roster will be playing in the World Cup. The coach feels all three selections will be able to do that, especially Maemone and Nolf, while Kimball can also play some forward.
“I think between the three of them, they can come in and make a real difference there,” Harvey said by phone from the draft in Chicago. “I think defender was always a big need for us, and I think these three give us options there, and (Kimball) gives us that ability up front if we need it.”
Unlike in 2018 when few draftees signed with teams after the Boston Breakers folded and its players were dispersed, leaving little room for new players on rosters, it stands to reason URFC’s trio could make a bigger impact for a few reasons. First, teams will now be able to have as many as 26 players (20 has been the maximum), with four who will be designated as supplemental players and not count against the salary cap.
Additionally, URFC earlier this week announced that it will now have a team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League known as Utah Royals FC Reserves, which will essentially serve as a minor league affiliate and allow the club to help develop more players than it has been able to up to this point.
Elsewhere, Harvey commented on the addition of former Spanish Women’s National Team captain Vero Boquete, who the team signed last week. URFC struggled mightily to make things happen offensively in the midfield in 2018, which Harvey feels Boquete will be able to help with significantly.
“We just needed somebody who has that ability to create opportunities, score opportunities,” Harvey said. “She has a creative mind. She thrives on those things. That’s a huge reason why we went out and got Vero. We know she can do it at this level. We know that she’s got the ability to play in this league. She’s shown that before, which is tough because it’s a difficult league to play in, but we’re just glad that we had the opportunity to be able to get her, and the timing was just perfect.”
NWSL training camps will begin on March 4.
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