Utah Royals FC are building out their roster ahead of the upcoming NWSL Expansion Draft. The Utah side signed defender Imani Dorsey via free agency. She was drafted by NJ/NY Gotham FC in 2018 and recently won the 2023 NWSL Championship with the East Coast club. Dorsey was sidelined during the 2023 season, but heads to Utah with 72 NWSL games played, 2018 rookie of the year honors, and six goals scored.
"When I heard about [Utah's] return, I was intrigued about the possibility of playing here," said Dorsey. "I came into the league in 2018, so during those first few seasons, traveling to Salt Lake City, this was a place I was very excited to experience. From the outside looking in, the amenities this Club built up for women's soccer was to be admired - setting the League standard even then."
Dorsey is the second defender acquired by the club this offseason. Head coach Amy Rodriguez and Sporting Director Kelly Cousins previously added Kaleigh Riehl to the roster.
"The vision for this Club is so inspiring, the attention to detail shown by Amy Rodriguez and Kelly Cousins makes me so excited for the second Royals iteration to create one of the premier destinations for soccer in the entire world, and I'm grateful to be asked to be a part of this expansion side. I am very excited to help grow Utah's soccer culture. That's one of the joys of being a professional, to being a part of the energy and the emotion of the crowd, the community, inspiring the next generation. I cannot wait to dive head-first into the Utah experience."
Working ahead of expansion draft
. Then the club added three more players into the fold with Riehl from San Diego Wave FC in exchange for expansion draft protection and $60,000 in allocation money. They later acquired midfielders Emily Gray and Francesca "Frankie" Tagliaferri from the North Carolina Courage in exchange for $30,000 in Allocation Money and expansion protection.
"I'm incredibly excited to join Utah Royals FC – I can't wait to bring women's professional soccer back to Utah," said Riehl, selected a year ago as one of San Diego's expansion picks. "Amy Rodriguez has an immense amount of knowledge and experience in the game and I can't wait to learn from her and her staff. I'm looking forward to competing with my teammates every day and contributing to this Club in any and every way I can. I'm also looking forward to getting to know the city, the fans and the community – everyone who makes this place special."
Utah Royals will be Riehl's third expansion club. She was previously selected by Racing Louisville in the 2021 expansion draft and later selected in the 2022 expansion draft by San Diego. In two seasons with San Diego, she appeared in 41 regular season games (37 starts) for the club. The centerback scored the club's first-ever competitive goal, a game-tying goal in the 2022 Challenge Cup opener against Angel City FC. Her experience in the position will give Utah an immediate anchor in their backline for their inaugural season.
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A former Virginia Tech Hokie, Gray's season was cut short after sustaining an ACL injury in March, but the 23-year-old midfielder is currently rehabbing and looking ahead to a new chapter.
"I'm really excited for this opportunity to further my career with the Utah Royals," said Gray, the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft. "Amy Rodriguez is a proven winner, and I'm looking forward to her leadership, to being coached by her and achieving great things at this club. I cannot wait to arrive in Utah and get things started."
Tagliaferri will reunite with Riehl after the duo played together for Penn State prior to Tagliaferri's transfer to Rutgers University for her senior year. Her 114 career NCAA games played at Penn State and Rutgers are the most ever by a Division I player.
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"I'm extremely excited for everything this opportunity has to offer, to go somewhere new to test my abilities and play soccer with another amazing club, learning from new players & staff," said Tagliaferri.
"I've seen and heard so many amazing things about the Utah Royals club, they've handled everything so awesomely, the facilities are top-notch and obviously Amy is amazing. Growing up, I watched her closely – she was a favorite player of mine, winning gold medals and playing in World Cups, displaying grit and determination and so much heart. Talking to her now, I can feel how excited she is to build this roster, to prepare us to be successful as we kick off new eras – individually and collectively – in Utah."
The five newly acquired players are the first Utah Royals athletes for Coach Rodriguez and Sporting Director Cousins. The moves mean that three clubs -- Orlando, San Diego, and North Carolina -- have expansion protection from Utah Royals in the upcoming selection event.
"Both Kelly and myself are excited to welcome Riehl to the club," said Rodriguez.
"I have no doubt that these players will put their blood, sweat, and tears into this team. As we build Utah Royals FC from scratch, these are precisely the type of players that you want – ones that will bring not just talent but also a relentlessness to roll up their sleeves up and get to work."