By Celia Balf
The first Team of the Month of the 2018 NWSL season has been announced for March, with the top team in the NWSL standings, the North Carolina Courage, leading the way with three players named to the roster: Jaelene Hinkle, Debinha and Crystal Dunn. The March Team of the Month was selected by the NWSL Media Association.
Check out the full best XI, which lines up in a 4-3-3 formation:
GK: Jane Campbell, Houston Dash
In her second NWSL season with the Dash, goalkeeper Jane Campbell made six saves in March, allowing just one goal as the Dash went 0-0-2 in their first two games of the 2018 season. On March 30, Campbell had a standout performance against Utah Royals FC recording five saves, one of which earned her Week 2 Save of the Week honors.
D: Jaelene Hinkle, North Carolina Courage
Jaelene Hinkle helped the Courage to an undefeated start to the season. The defender has not only done her part defensively — with the Courage the only team standing without any goals against — but also recorded a team-high 88 touches against Sky Blue on March 31 and contributed three key passes, one feeding Jessica McDonald in the 92nd minute for the game-winner.
D: Becky Sauerbrunn, Utah Royals FC
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn has kept the new Utah Royals FC team organized and hard to break down. Utah Royals FC are 0-0-2 and have conceded just one goal in their two games. Sauerbrunn’s performances against Orlando and Houston have combined for six clearances, four interceptions and two blocks.
D: Emily Sonnett, Portland Thorns FC
Last season defender Emily Sonnett was a key piece in holding down the reigning NWSL champs’ backline, and in the first two weeks of the 2018 NWSL season, the same holds true. Sonnett recorded nine clearances and won possession 14 times against the Courage in Week 1, and in Week 2 put together another solid 90 minute effort against the Red Stars. Sonnett made six clearances, one interception and gained possession 10 times against Chicago.
D: Rachel Daly, Houston Dash
Daly’s defensive efforts have been crucial for the Dash, who have started the season 0-0-2. Daly recorded six clearances and four interceptions in a 1-1 draw with the Red Stars in Week 1 and made five clearances and one interception against Utah Royals FC in Week 2, a 0-0 draw and the first shutout of the season for the Dash.
M: Lindsey Horan, Portland Thorns FC
Lindsey Horan scored Portland Thorns FC’s fist goal of 2018 on March 31 when she finished in the 9th minute. The Thorns are 1-1-0 in March, and Horan has showed up in the middle getting 67 touches in the season opener against North Carolina on March 24. On March 31, she saw even more of the ball, recording 69 touches against Chicago. Her passing accuracy was above 72% in both games.
M: Debinha, North Carolina Courage
The midfielder scored the first goal of the 2018 NWSL season on March 24 when she cracked it from outside the box to lift her team over the Thorns 1-0. In the Courage’s two games, she’s combined five shots and four key passes in the attack.
M: Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir, Utah Royals FC
Jónsdóttir scored the first goal in Utah Royals FC history and helped the new club earn their first-ever point. Jónsdóttir’s goal came against the Orlando Pride on March 24 — also her NWSL debut. The midfielder put Houston’s defense to the test in Week 2 action, taking five shots in the club’s 0-0 draw on March 30.
F: Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign FC
Seattle Reign FC may have only played one game in March, but forward Megan Rapinoe, the Player of the Month, made sure it counted. Rapinoe scored a goal and added an assist in the Reign’s 2-1 victory over the Washington Spirit on opening weekend. Rapinoe also picked up Player of the Month honors for her performance. Rapinoe, even with just one game under her belt, leads the league in shots (11) and shots on target (6).
F: Mallory Pugh, Washington Spirit
Mallory Pugh lifted the Spirit to their first win of 2018 on March 31 with a late goal that eventually earned her Week 2 Player of the Week honors. Even though the Spirit fell to the Reign in opening weekend, Pugh managed to get 74 touches on the ball and get off five shots. In the Spirit’s 2-0 win against the Orlando Pride in Week 2, she got off four crosses, dished out two key passes and recorded 56 touches on the ball.
F: Crystal Dunn, North Carolina Courage
In her first two games with her new team, Crystal Dunn has been a key piece to the Courage’s attack, helping the team sit at the top of the table at 2-0-0. Dunn has been particularly impressive in her passing and crossing — in the Courage’s win over the Thorns she held the team’s highest passing accuracy percentage at 72.7% and had three shots and three key passes for the attack. In the Courage’s most recent win against Sky Blue, she recorded two shots and played two key passes on the day.
The NWSL Team of the Month is selected each month of the regular season by the NWSL Media Association, a collection of writers that cover the league on a consistent basis. For more information on the NWSL Media Association, follow them on Twitter.