SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most accomplished soccer players from the state of Utah is coming home.
On Thursday, Utah Royals FC announced it has acquired former BYU and Alta High star Michele Vasconcelos from the Chicago Red Stars in exchange for $55,000 in allocation money.
The 26-year-old Vasconcelos was chosen by the Red Stars with the 11th pick in the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League draft but missed her rookie season because she was pregnant. In 31 career matches since 2018 (she also missed significant time in 2019 after tearing her ACL), Vasconcelos has scored three goals with three assists.
Vasconcelos said Thursday during a Zoom call with reporters that she asked to be traded — a relatively common occurrence in the NWSL — because Utah would be a better situation for her family (which includes her husband, Pedro, whom she met at BYU and daughter Scarlett), but she expressed some mixed emotions because she’s enjoyed her time in Chicago.
“Obviously we’re sad to leave Chicago just because we spent three years there, but coming to Utah, we’ve just felt a lot of peace as a family, being able to have our family support around and coming back to friends and a community that we love,” she said.
In addition to coming back home, there will be at least one important familiar face for Vasconcelos within the URFC organization, as head coach Craig Harrington was a Red Stars assistant for two seasons prior to taking the job in Utah earlier this year.
“I’m excited to work with Craig again and see how he is as a head coach,” she said. “I got the assistant coach taste, but I know it’s really different as the head coach.”
In his first games as URFC’s head coach during the NWSL’s Challenge Cup in Utah over the summer, Harrington gained quite a bit of attention as he employed an attack-oriented 3-5-2 formation, and Vasconcelos said she’s looking forward to seeing how she fits into the mix.
She said Thursday that she is planning on playing in URFC’s fall series, which begins on Sept. 20, even as she continues to get back to full strength following the ACL tear last summer (she appeared as a substitute for the Red Stars during the Challenge Cup). She’ll help bolster a group that, despite the formation, struggled to score during the summer event.
“Michele is quality, her combination of skills is high level and her mindset on top of that is high level,” Harrington said in a statement. “I know we are getting a really good player here that makes our squad stronger.”
Surnamed Murphy before getting married (many still call her “Murph”), Vasconcelos scored 49 goals during her prep career as Alta won three state championships, and then she scored 30 goals during her collegiate career at BYU.
“I would definitely say I’m a different player (now),” she said. “I learned a lot at Chicago and I think have grown my game, and now I’m excited to add that next step here at the Royals and really push myself to see what I can do here.”