Utah Royals FC acquired Michele Vasconcelos from the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for $55,000 in allocation money in a roster move the club announced on Thursday.
A Brigham Young University graduate and Utah native, Vasconcelos returns home in the move. She spent the first years of her NWSL career with Chicago after being selected 11th overall in the 2017 draft. She made 36 appearances with the Red Stars after her rookie year was put on hold due to Vasconcelos' pregnancy.
While in Chicago, Vasconcelos balanced being a pro athlete and becoming a new mom. The 26-year-old winger credits the club with giving her the first shot at a pro contract and helping her growth and development not only as a player, but as a parent and person.
"Being at the Red Stars was huge for me, they gave me my first shot when I was coming back from Scarlett," said Vasconcelos to CBS Sports. "Already coming in, I don't know if i deserved a contract right away but [they] took a chance on me and I felt like in Chicago I experienced nothing but growth. I was forced to grow which was awesome because of injuries, and being in the motherhood role, and having to balance my time."
Over Vasconcelos' three seasons in Chicago, she scored three goals and assisted on three more -- with those three assists all taking place during 2019 before an ACL injury interrupted her season.
Vasconcelos requested the trade in an effort to provide a more familiar environment for her daughter who is now 3 years old. She returns home to Utah where she played high school and collegiate soccer. She will also be reunited with former Red Stars coach Craig Harrington, who is now the head coach of Utah Royals FC. The familiarity could be an added layer for a smooth transition.
"I owe a huge, huge thanks to Chicago. I wouldn't be where I am today without them," she said. "I think I regret not having been able to contribute more to them just having had injuries and trying to find my way back from Scarlett. I think that will always be tough to swallow. Not knowing that I could've stayed there and given more, but it's going to be such a big blessing for my family to be here (in Utah) with Scarlett now that she's getting older."
Harrington and the Royals exited the Challenge Cup in the quarterfinals earlier this summer. Vasconcelos says she is eager to contribute to Utah's offense along side veterans like Amy Rodriguez and Vero Boquete and new talents like Tziarra King.
"We actually haven't (discussed formation) yet. We mostly just talked about me contributing to the attack and maybe bring some speed and spark in that," Vasconcelos said. "But I'm really excited to have that conversation because I don't know exactly yet. I think I can help kind of in the five [role] as one of the width and help in that aspect, but I'm excited to work with Craig again."