Emily Dulhanty’s 2013 NWSL Award Picks

The Women’s Football Podcast’s resident NWSL expert picks the players that have caught her eye this season.

Last weekend I spent quite a bit of time on my NWSL Award picks and I thought I’d share my train of thought here on the WFBlog.

With so many ways of approaching these votes, I tried to base my decisions on consistency – who delivered impact performances for their team week in and week out. Yes, big time saves and plays are important for each team as well, but I think those winning these awards had to be able to deliver each week and not disappear for a few games.

Without further ado, here they are:

MVP: Lauren Holiday. Holiday was undoubtedly the league’s best player. She led the league with 12 goals and nine assists, and stepped up on FC Kansas City, a team whose strikers have struggled.

Holiday

Lauren Holiday is Emily’s MVP pick

Goalkeeper of the Year: Adrianna Franch. This one was a toss up between Western New York’s Franch and Portland’s Karina Leblanc.

Here’s the thing: Leblanc has the league’s fourth best goals against average (GAA) on a team with a struggling defense, and her efforts kept the Thorns in many games (including her save on an Abby Wambach PK to preserve a draw on July 14th). But she had a couple of games (two against FC KC that I can specifically think of) where her goalkeeping wasn’t great.

Franch on the other hand, has the league’s best GAA and was very solid the entire season. In the same game that Leblanc saved Wambach’s PK, Franch made an incredible nine saves to help preserve the draw for WNY. So, I’m okay with Franch as my pick for keeper of the year (with Leblanc a close second!).

Defender of the Year: Christie Rampone. Oldest player and best defender in the league. Guided the team’s two young starting defenders, Kendall Johnson and Caitlyn Foord (pre-injury that is), for much of the season like the veteran she is.

Rookie of the Year: Erika Tymrak. Of those eligible, Erika Tymrak, Sydney Leroux, Adriana Franch and Mana Shim stand out for me (don’t make me choose!). Ok, I chose Tymrak.

Here’s why: Fresh out of the University of Florida, Tymrak was able to work herself from a second half substitute on Kansas City to a starter, and one of the team’s most influential players. She is exciting and combined extremely well with Lauren Holiday. Tallying four assists and six goals herself, I think she’s deserving. (And yes, I realize I chose Franch for GK of the year and not rookie of the year, but Tymrak brought a whole lot of excitement and technical ability to the league, so just go with it!)

Coach of the Year: Vlatko Andonovski (FC KC). Although I think Andonovski got lucky with the balanced national team allocations he got, he complimented those players with a superb supporting cast. When Chicago and Washington both passed on Kristie Mewis in the college draft, he picked her and throughout the season helped convert her into a left back.

Andonovski also signed Erika Tymrak, Courtney Jones and Leigh-Ann Robinson, to name a few, who proved to be essential to the team’s success. Not including the two late game collapses FCKC had at the end of the season, they also played the most attractive style of possession soccer in the NWSL.

Honourable mentions: Laura Harvey, for finding a solid lineup after a slow start and converting Kaylyn Kyle into an effective centre back. Jim Gabarra for getting Sky Blue FC to the Play-Offs despite the mounting list of injuries his players incurred. And Aaron Lines for putting together a winning team for the fourth year (and fourth different league) in a row.

Adrianna Franch's consistency earned her Emily's vote as Keeper of the Year

Adrianna Franch’s consistency earned her Emily’s vote as Keeper of the Year

Best XI:

Goalkeeper: Adrianna Franch: As I explained above, her consistency earns her the number one jersey in this team.

Defenders (4): Becky Sauerbrunn, Christie Rampone, Brittany Taylor, Leigh Ann Robinson. Consistency. Sauerbrunn, Rampone and Taylor were anchors at CB, and Robinson’s 1-v-1 defending and ability to get forward at left back, and later at right back is deserving of Best XI honours. 

Midfielders/ Forwards (6): Lauren Holiday, Abby Wambach, Desiree Scott, Lori Chalupny, Jessica Fishlock, Diana Matheson 

The fact that I had about a dozen players on this list at first shows just how great the league’s quality of play and competitiveness has been. On any other day I could have interchanged any one of the above six (besides maybe Holiday and Wambach) with Lianne Sanderson, Carli Lloyd or Megan Rapinoe (among others).

So my picks: Holiday and Wambach were locks. Chalupny was one of the league’s best players hands down, and despite past successive concussions ruling her out from getting another look by the USWNT, she is world class. When Chalupny got injured in Portland, Chicago’s Play-Off hopes died.

What Matheson and Fishlock were able to do on their massively struggling teams is Best XI worthy. And last but not least Desiree Scott (yes holding/defensive midfielder is still in the midfield!). We can’t overlook how crucial Scott was to Kansas City’s defensive stability all season. She’ll win the ball from you in the middle of the park, and do it cleanly the majority of the time.

That’s it. It was fun but super difficult, because so many others could have been included. As objective as you try to be, these kinds of things are all about personal perception. Let me know what you think, yell at me if you disagree (please don’t), and let us at the WFBlog know who your choices are!

The NWSL Wasn’t All Fun and Games this Weekend…

Soccer is a game that we all love. You and I both wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case. (And thanks Hamish and Kieran for asking me to blog here- I am unworthy to be in such amazing company!)

But sometimes things around the game happen that are quite disappointing. As I settled in to watch the four NWSL games this past weekend, an event on both Saturday and Sunday fit this description.

I’ll start with the most recent.

During the Seattle Reign vs Washington Spirit game (the first NWSL game broadcast on tv!) Seattle’s Kaylyn Kyle and Washington’s Ali Krieger both went up for a 50/50 ball and hit heads. Both fell to the ground, and after a short time Kyle returned to play while Krieger was subbed out where it was reported she underwent concussion testing.

A flood of tweets then littered twitter, either @ mentioning Kaylyn Kyle directly or just including her name. These tweets included threats saying how some wanted to kill Kyle or punch her in the face, coming from people who obviously are fans of Krieger and harbour some ill placed hate against Kyle. You can look up the exact tweets if you want, though I’m sure many have been deleted.

Kaylyn Kyle issues her response

Kaylyn Kyle issues her response

These players do not exist for our personal enjoyment. For a player to ever have to respond to these tweets like Kyle later did is disgraceful. If someone can’t watch a game without hurling threats behind a computer screen, then they should be banished to the Phantom Zone. (Superman reference anyone? No? Ok.) Or their television should self-destruct, at the very least.

In all seriousness, it’s disheartening that tweets like these were sent about and to Kyle just days after it was announced that police are investigating twitter threats sent to the Montreal Impact’s Davy Arnaud. John Molinaro, a Toronto-based journalist, explored this same issue of ‘fandoms’ crossing the line in an article last Friday. (Go give it a read after this. It is a great piece and Molinaro is absolutely correct.)

Let’s hope one of these days people realize, even in a moment of stress, this sort of thing is not acceptable, however empty the threats may be.

The other event happened on Saturday night, during the broadcast of the Sky Blue FC home game. During the match, a terrible comment and subsequent reaction was issued by the two Sky Blue play-by-play commentators.

Here in the broadcast (at 1:27:25) one commentator mentioned an unfortunate event that occurred last week in Brazil where a soccer referee (and another player) were brutally murdered. The comments were as follows:

“We treat the refs with respect unlike what happened down in Brazil. If you heard about that.” And the other commentator proceeded to actually laugh for a few seconds and say “I’m not getting involved.”

Is it really too much to ask for 90 minutes of commentating that is void of such disgusting interactions as that one? Why bring up that horrible incident, then proceed to laugh about it on a video where thousands are intently watching and listening?

Don’t stand for this kind of nonsense. To ignore the laugh to that comment and the overall unprofessional nature of it would be doing a disservice to women’s soccer fans and the exceptional soccer players on the field.

If you are upset about the broadcast, then I urge you to politely email your grievances to a combination of Sky Blue FC’s CEO, Director of Operations and Operations Manager whose emails can be found on their website here.

This sort of thing is not complaining; it’s asking for human decency.

As a group that cares, lets collectively demand better, from fellow “fans” and commentators alike.