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Utah Royals trade for 3 more players, continue roster construction

Utah continues to build its roster after signing its first player, former BYU Cougar Mikayla Cluff, Wednesday

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San Diego Wave defender Kaleigh Riehl (18) is challenged by OL Reign midfielder Jessica Fishlock (10) during a match in 2022.

San Diego Wave defender Kaleigh Riehl (18) is challenged by OL Reign midfielder Jessica Fishlock (10) during an NWSL soccer match on April 14, 2022, in Seattle.

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

The Utah Royals traded for three players at the NWSL’s trade deadline, the team announced Monday.

Utah acquired Kaleigh Riehl from the San Diego Wave and Emily Gray and Frankie Tagliaferri from the North Carolina Courage.

“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,” Royals head coach Amy Rodriguez said in a press release.

The Royals sent $60,000 in allocation money to San Diego for Riehl and $30,000 to North Carolina for Gray and Tagliaferri in addition to expansion draft protection for both teams.

During December’s expansion draft, Utah will be unable to select players from San Diego, North Carolina and the Orlando Pride, who received protection by sending former BYU Cougar Mikayla Cluff to Utah last Wednesday.

With the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror, the NWSL and the Royals turn their attention to free agency. Free agent players can sign with new teams starting Monday.

Who is Kaleigh Riehl?

Riehl was the second player added to Utah’s roster since the team’s relaunch. She has spent the past two seasons in San Diego, winning the NWSL shield with the club this season.

Next season will be her third time being part of a team’s inaugural season. She was previously selected in expansions drafts by Racing Louisville and San Diego.

She spent her rookie season with Sky Blue FC — now Gotham FC — before spending one season with Louisville and two seasons with San Diego. Riehl made her NWSL debut for Sky Blue against the Royals in 2020.

“I’m incredibly excited to join Utah Royals FC — I can’t wait to bring women’s professional soccer back to Utah,” she said in a press release. “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.”

Who is Emily Gray?

Gray was selected No. 3 overall by North Carolina in the 2022 NWSL draft. She missed this season after tearing her ACL, but she played in seven regular season and Challenge Cup matches in 2022, according to the Courage.

“I’m really excited for this opportunity to further my career with the Utah Royals,” she said in a press release. “Obviously, 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.”

Who is Frankie Tagliaferri?

Tagliaferri played in 114 career NCAA games for Penn State and Rutgers, which is the most games played by a Division I player, before joining the Courage, according to the Royals.

“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,” she said.