The National Women’s Soccer League issued the following press release on Wednesday:
CHICAGO (Oct. 4, 2017) – The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced Thursday the list of finalists for Most Valuable Player, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year.
In the final round of voting – owners, general managers, head coaches, players, media and fans will vote from now to Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. ET to determine the individual award winners as well as the 2017 NWSL Best XI.FAN VOTING IS NOW OPEN: nwslsoccer.com/fanvote
2017 NWSL Awards – Finalists Coach of the Year
Rory Dames – Chicago Red Stars
With a record of 11-7-6 (39 points) in 2017, Rory Dames is the only coach to have earned 30 or more points in every one of the five NWSL seasons. With Chicago from the start of the league, Dames is also the only coach in the 2017 playoffs to have been with the team since the NWSL’s inaugural year in 2013. The Red Stars earned a third consecutive trip to the postseason in 2017 as Dames became one of three coaches to make at least three straight playoff appearances (along with Vlatko Andonovski in 2013-15 and Mark Parsons 2014-17).
Paul Riley – North Carolina Courage
After coaching the Western New York Flash to the 2016 NWSL Championship, Paul Riley embraced the challenge of leading the team through their relocation to become the North Carolina Courage. He saw those efforts rewarded with a record-tying 16 regular-season wins as the Courage went on to claim the 2017 NWSL Shield in the first season in their new home. Riley has helped to prepare players for the international stage with their respective national teams – as shown most recently by the emergence of Taylor Smith with the U.S. Women’s National Team as well as the continued growth and success of Abby Dahlkemper, Samantha Mewis, Lynn Williams, Ashley Hatch, Debinha and Denise O’Sullivan.
Tom Sermanni – Orlando Pride
In just a year, Tom Sermanni has led the team from a fledgling side that finished in ninth place in 2016 to a championship contender in 2017. Sermanni and his players catapulted six spots up the standings, finishing No. 3 overall in the team’s second year. The former U.S. Women’s National Team gaffer transformed the roster, bringing in impact players such as Marta, Ali Krieger, Alanna Kennedy, Camila, Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill, while developing the chemistry with returners Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Dani Weatherholt. In 2017, the Pride offense became the most potent in the league, scoring 45 goals across 11 players, compared to 20 goals between six players the year prior.
Rookie of the Year
Jane Campbell finished her rookie season with a franchise-high three clean sheets over 16 games for Houston in 2017. Selected with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, Campbell made 65 saves this season for the Dash – the most by a Houston goalkeeper since Erin McLeod made 83 stops in 2014. Campbell was nominated for NWSL Save of the Week 10 times in 16 appearances, winning once, and was a key component in Houston’s six-game unbeaten streak this summer. The Stanford product was also named to the NWSL Team of the Month for July.
The No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, Ashley Hatch emerged as a key part of the attack for the North Carolina Courage – making 13 starts in 22 appearances for the NWSL Shield winners. The BYU product scored seven goals on the season and ranked second on the team in goals, just two behind 2016 NWSL Golden Boot winner Lynn Williams. Her seven tallies are tied for the most by a rookie and she also added an assist. Hatch was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for June and was nominated for Goal of the Week twice during that month.
The youngest player in the NWSL made a major impact in her rookie season, leading the Spirit with six goals in just 16 appearances after signing with the team in May. The 19-year-old had several signature performances throughout the season, starting on June 3 against the Houston Dash when she nutmegged the goalkeeper for her first professional goal. She went on to record her first career brace July 8 against the Orlando Pride, which included a 90th minute equalizer from the penalty spot. She scored her first NWSL game-winner Sept. 10 in a dramatic second-half comeback against Sky Blue FC, and finished the season with another two-goal performance at home Sept. 30 against Seattle Reign FC.
Goalkeeper of the Year
Adrianna Franch anchored a Thorns FC defense that allowed the fewest goals (20) and posted the best goal differential (+17) during the 2017 regular season as one of just two goalkeepers in the NWSL to start every match and play every minute. Franch led the league in save percentage (80 percent) and shutouts (11), setting a new NWSL single-season record for shutouts. In addition, Franch finished the regular season ranked second in the NWSL with a 0.83 goals-against average and fourth in saves (80), while also saving two penalty-kick attempts.
Alyssa Naeher helped Chicago earn its third-straight playoff appearance as she recorded six shutouts while facing the second-most shots in the league. Naeher conceded just 25 goals in 22 appearances this year for a 1.14 goals against average – the third best GAA in the league. The goalkeeper has made key saves throughout the year, earning her two NWSL Save of the Week honors (Week 5 and 14).
Since claiming the starting role for the North Carolina Courage, Katelyn Rowland has posted eight shutouts to add to the team’s record-breaking 12 total shutouts in 2017. She made 16 starts for the Courage this season and boasted a 0.75 goals against average – the lowest GAA in the league among goalkeepers with at least 1,000 minutes. Her 39 saves played a big role in North Carolina putting together a plus-16 goal difference, the second-highest in the league. Rowland was recognized as a member of the NWSL Team of the Month for her play in August – when she made 14 saves and recorded three shutouts.
Defender of the Year
Steph Catley continued her dominance during her second season with the Pride. The 23-year-old Australian led the Pride in total touches (1,667) but showed her attacking versatility down the flanks, leading the Pride with 75 crosses and finished second with 27 chances created. The defender totaled two assists on the season, including a pinpoint outlet on Alex Morgan’s highlight-reel goal on Aug. 8. Catley also earned Week 10 Save of the Week for a goal-line clearance against the Houston Dash.
Abby Dahlkemper played every second of the 2017 NWSL season. It was the second consecutive year that she did not miss a minute on the field and her current streak of 5,580 consecutive minutes (62 games) is an NWSL record. Dahlkemper’s skill on set pieces makes her the Courage’s go-to for corner kicks and free kicks – as reflected by the 116 corners she’s taken in 2017. She boasts two assists as a center back and earned Team of the Month recognition in both June and July. With Dahlkemper on the Courage backline, the team posted a record 12 shutouts this season and has allowed just 22 goals against (second-lowest in the league).
The only Pride player to appear in all 2,160 minutes, Ali Krieger brought her veteran leadership and outstanding defensive skills to the Orlando Pride backline. Krieger’s addition played a major role in the transformation of the Pride defense, while her versatility contributed to much of Orlando’s success. Naturally a right back, Krieger started all but five games at the center back position. In that role, the World Cup champion led the Pride in clearances (99), interceptions (49) and successful passes (1,073). Krieger also added two assists. Krieger has now reached the NWSL playoffs each of her last four years in the league, helping the Pride to their first postseason appearance in 2017.
Becky Sauerbrunn has been the league’s most consistent defender throughout the five-year history of the NWSL. In 2017, she led the league in blocks (24), was fourth in connected passes (1,176). Sauerbrunn was voted the NWSL Defender of the Year in each of the first three seasons of the league’s existence. She added an offensive element to her game this year with a goal and two assists in 2017.
After being named an allocated player for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Casey Short found her place in Chicago’s strong backline in just her second year in the NWSL. Short and the Red Stars defense had a goal against average of 1.25 in 2017, the third-best in the league. Short also had a goal and an assist this season as she showcased a strong offensive presence that provides a major threat for opposing teams. Short was named to three NWSL Team of the Month honors (May, June, July).
Most Valuable Player
The 2017 Golden Boot winner, Samantha Kerr set a new NWSL single-season scoring record with 17 goals in 22 appearances. Five of her 17 tallies were game-winning goals, to go along with four assists. She became the first player to record two hat tricks in the same season, recorded the fastest hat trick in league history as she registered three goals in 12 minutes. Kerr also became the first player in NWSL history to score four goals in a game and was named to the NWSL Team of the Month for May, June, July and August.
After being acquired as a blockbuster signing in March, Marta did not disappoint in her first NWSL season. Marta finished the 2017 season second in the league in both goals (13) and assists (6), also team highs in both categories. Four of her goals were game-winning goals and she led the league in chances created with 64. The five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year teamed up with striking partner Alex Morgan five times in the latter part of the season as the Pride went on a nine-game unbeaten streak to end the year and clinch a playoff berth. Marta was named to the NWSL Team of the Month in June, July and August and won Week 16 Goal of the Week.
Samantha Mewis dominated the center of the field for the North Carolina Courage as her six goals – including three game-winning goals – and three assists helped power the club to the 2017 NWSL Shield. A consistent force in the middle of the park, Mewis won 64 percent of her duels and 79 percent of her tackles this season. She was named to the Team of the Month three times, making the list in April, June and August. She was also named Player of the Week for Week 16 after netting two goals against Seattle.
Regaining her role as captain, Press registered personal bests with both 11 goals and four assists in regular season. Five of her goals were game-winning goals and four of her 11 goals came from the penalty spot – tied for the most in the league. She was a constant attacking threat and one of the top shooters in the league with 85 shots (49 on goal). Press twice won the NWSL Goal of the Week (Weeks 5 and 14) and was voted the NWSL Player of the Week for Week 6.
With 12 goals and one assist in her 18 games played, Megan Rapinoe finished the 2017 NWSL season with her highest ever goal total and the third most goals in the league this year. Four of her goals were game-winning goals. Twice named NWSL Player of the Week, and the Player of the Month for July, Rapinoe scored against six of the other nine NWSL teams this year. Rapinoe’s 12 goals is the second most in a single season by a Reign FC player, and the highest goal total for a Reign FC player since the 2014 season. Rapinoe found the back of the net in five of Reign FC’s nine victories this season.