The 2017 season was a big one for NWSL rookies. From Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch, to Rose Lavelle winning April Player of the Month, to late game-winning goals from Katie Johnson, Mallory Pugh and Rachel Hill, newcomers to professional soccer made their mark this past season.
Overall, rookies combined for 35 goals, 23 assists, one Player of the Month and one Player of the Week. In addition, a rookie won Goal of the Week once and Save of the Week once.
The earliest rookie goal title is held by two players, who both scored in third minute: Madison Tiernan for Sky Blue at Chicago on June 25 and Katie Johnson for Seattle at Sky Blue on August 19. (Tiernan’s goal officially came about six seconds before Johnson’s.)
As for goalkeepers, Jane Campbell, Kailen Sheridan and Sammy Jo Prudhomme combined for 168 saves and nine clean sheets (three each). Prudhomme’s clean sheets came in a string of 337 consecutive scoreless minutes, a Breakers franchise record.
More 2017 rookie highlights:
No. 1 overall draft pick Rose Lavelle led Boston to a 2-1-0 start in April, and earned Player of the Month honors. She notched her first career goal and her first career assist in the Breakers’ two wins. It’s the first time a rookie has ever been named NWSL Player of the Month following her first month in the league.
Eventual Rookie of the Year winner Ashley Hatch didn’t get her first start for the Courage until June 3, but she made it count. Starting in place of Jess McDonald, Hatch scored her first professional goal in the 67th minute vs. FC Kansas City when she finished off a perfectly placed pass from Lynn Williams. The No. 2 overall draft pick scored her first career goal in front of her home fans — and in the Game of the Week on Lifetime. She scored seven goals and one assist in 22 appearances.
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 3, 2017
Hatch’s fellow Rookie of the Year finalists — Mallory Pugh and Jane Campbell — also made their impact in the NWSL beginning in the month of June. Pugh, who left UCLA to join the NWSL in May, scored her first pro goal on June 3. A month later, she recorded a brace vs. the Pride and scored the equalizing goal each time, including a 90th minute penalty kick to salvage a 2-2 draw. Late in the season, she scored an 85th minute goal in a 2-1 win that eliminated Sky Blue FC from the playoffs. Despite missing a handful of games with an ankle injury, Pugh recorded five goals in 16 games for the Spirit.
Campbell took over as the starting goalkeeper for the Dash on June 17 and earned her first clean sheet on June 24 in a 2-0 win in Orlando. She went on to record three shutouts in 16 starts for Houston. Along the way she was nominated for Save of the Week nine times and won in Week 19 for her penalty kick stop vs. the Reign.
Rookie goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan made 11 saves, an NWSL club record for Sky Blue FC in a 2-0 loss to the Courage on May 24. Sheridan earned three clean sheets in 22 starts and was named to the May Team of the Month.
Sheridan was just one of several rookies to earn big minutes for Sky Blue FC in 2017. She was joined by midfielder Madison Tiernan (20 games, 1,036 minutes, 3 goals), defender Kayla Mills (16 games, 1,162 minutes, 29 interceptions) and defender Mandy Freeman (21 games, 1,802 minutes, 71 clearances, 42 interceptions).
Katie Johnson scored a game-winning goal in the 92nd minute for the Reign over the Red Stars — one of four goals for the rookie forward in 23 appearances. Her fellow rookie on the Reign — defender Kristen McNabb — made 18 appearances on defense. She registered 88 clearances and 35 interceptions in 1,307 minutes.
Johnson and McNabb also both scored their first career goals in the same game, a 5-1 win at home over the Dash.
The 86th minute proved to be a magic minute for Orlando Pride rookies.
On April 22, Danica Evans scored the game-tying goal in a 1-1 draw with the Spirit when the Pride played their first game in the new Orlando City Stadium. Evans’ first NWSL goal came in front of 14,452 fans in Orlando.
— NWSL (@NWSL) April 22, 2017
Then on June 28, Rachel Hill’s header capped off a road comeback in New Jersey. Hill’s first professional goal came in front of her family, who had driven in from Pennsylvania to see the game. Hill scored three goals in her first season, including a quick brace vs. the Breakers late in season.
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 29, 2017
Dougherty Howard appeared in 23 games and played 1,911 minutes. She was a key part of the midfield and tallied a goal and an assist for Washington. Ship had her breakout performance in a 4-1 win over Sky Blue FC — recording her first goal and her first two assists in the game. Dougherty Howard also scored her first career goal in the game.
Ship was named Week 15 Player of the Week for the win, but was lost for the season after tearing her ACL a few weeks later.
Christina Gibbons, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, appeared in every game for FC Kansas City — playing defense and midfield in her rookie season. After starting out at left back, Gibbons was moved into the midfield on July 8 vs. Sky Blue FC. She recorded her first goal and first assist in that game and remained a fixture in the midfield for the rest of the season (24 games, 2,083 minutes).
Thorns rookie forward Tyler Lussi’s first goal was a 39th minute game-winner in a 2-1 win over the Dash in front of the home Portland crowd. Lussi also assisted on the game’s first goal as the Thorns caught fire in the second half of the season on their way to a the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.