SANDY — In the 53rd minute of Utah Royals FC's 2-0 win over the Orlando Pride last Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, URFC midfielder Lo'eau LaBonta kicked Pride defender Carson Pickett in the leg after the two had battled for the ball.
Game officials either didn't notice it in real time or didn't think it was malicious, as LaBonta wasn't penalized at the time. Almost immediately, though, a number of people posted video of the skirmish on Twitter, with many saying LaBonta should have been given at least a yellow card, if not a red.
It was presumed that National Women's Soccer League officials would levy a penalty on LaBonta this week, and that finally occurred on Thursday, as she was given a two-game suspension for her action.
LaBonta will miss Saturday's game on the road against the Washington Spirit before the NWSL takes a break from June 3-14 for the group stage of the World Cup. She will serve the last game of the suspension June 15 when URFC faces Sky Blue FC at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Without LaBonta in the lineup, URFC will be minus a midfielder who has started all six games so far this season and played 468 of 540 minutes. URFC's midfield could get interesting if Spanish star Vero Boquete is unable to play after she left the Orlando game in the 38th minute because of a right quad injury.
Erika Tymrak subbed on for Boquete.
LaBonta's suspension and Boquete's potential absence make a URFC roster thinned by injury and World Cup call-ups that much thinner. In addition to season-ending injuries to Brittany Ratcliffe and Taylor Lytle, rookie Maddie Nolf was on last week's injury report and Saturday will mark the first game URFC will be without all six players who will play in the World Cup, plus Canadian Diana Matheson, who was left off her country's World Cup team because of injury.
Saturday's game will be a matchup between the two teams that are tied atop the NWSL table after they both missed the playoffs last season.
The Spirit feature former BYU star Ashley Hatch, who has scored two goals so far in 2019.