HERRIMAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Utah Royals star forward Christen Press will not participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup beginning this weekend at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, citing concerns over the coronavirus.
“It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love, and to watch the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports and our world,” Press said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Regrettably, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must elect not to participate in this tournament. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to choose whether to report to work, including our selfless and heroic first responders. I look forward to supporting my teammates during the tournament in Utah.”
Press, who scored eight goals for Utah last season, has not practiced with the Royals since the team returned to Utah several weeks ago.
Utah Royals general manager Stephanie Lee released a statement saying, “We will miss Christen’s presence at the tournament both on and off the field. Regardless, we respect her decision.”
Press is a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Fellow USWNT members Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath have also opted out.
Meanwhile, the entire Orlando Pride team will not be making the trip to Utah after six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
It was reported the players contracted the virus after going out to a bar in Orlando.
The Royals feel bad for the entire Orlando team, but say this is a wake up call as to how serious the virus is.
“First of all, we’re just gutted for the whole league, for Orlando to have that happen to them, for those players not to have the opportunity to come out and play,” said Royals head coach Craig Harrington. “However I think it has really hit home to our group that was still have to knuckle down and this is a serious thing. Everyone is making sacrifices, however you can’t put a price on how big those small sacrifices are per every individual.”
“The reality is cases are rising in Utah,” added Royals midfielder Diana Matheson. “So I think everyone has to be quite vigilant. As members of this community, we kind of have to set the example and make sure we’re wearing our masks and doing the right things.”
With Orlando dropping out of the tournament, the schedule has changed. The Royals will now open the tournament on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. against the Houston Dash instead of the Washington Spirit.
The Royals will then play Sky Blue FC July 4th, followed by a July 8th contest against OL Reign and a game against the Chicago Red Stars on July 12th before the elimination rounds begin.