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.
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.
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!