Former NWSL player is first woman to coach men’s soccer team to NCAA title
Julianne Sitch played for the Chicago Red Stars.
June is coming to a close, which means it’s time for Just Women’s Sports‘ NWSL Best XI of the month.
The league released its Best XI on Monday, featuring players voted on by members of the NWSL Media Association. There is slight overlap in the JWS lineup, with four players earning the double spotlight and seven new players getting recognized.
Seven teams are represented in JWS’ lineup, including the top five in the league standings. Portland leads the way with three players, while San Diego and Houston each have two. The Wave, in fact, have two players making their second consecutive JWS Best XI appearance. (You can read our Best XI for May here.)
Sophia Smith, Portland Thorns FC
The NWSL’s Player of the Month, Sophia Smith contributed a goal or an assist in each of Portland’s four games in June as her speed continues to be a nightmare for defenders. Most notably, she had two goals and one assist in a 4-0 win over the Houston Dash on June 12.
Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash
The Houston Dash forward scored four goals in June to move into fourth place in the Golden Boot race. Her biggest performance came on June 3, when she scored the first-ever hat trick in Dash history during a 5-0 win over the Orlando Pride. She also scored the game-winner in Houston’s thrilling 4-3 victory over the North Carolina Courage.
Alex Morgan, San Diego Wave FC
Alex Morgan added five goals in June, bringing her season tally to 11 and surpassing last year’s Golden Boot total in less than half the number of games. She was a menace in San Diego’s 3-0 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC on June 19, recording a brace and an assist.
Maria Sánchez, Houston Dash
Maria Sánchez has been an integral part of the Houston Dash’s attack, especially in their 4-3 win over the Courage when she contributed a goal and two assists. On June 3 against the Orlando Pride, she had arguably the best play of the month, connecting with Rachel Daly on a perfect long-ball assist from the middle of the park to the top of the box.
RACHEL DALY HEADER ⚡— Attacking Third (@AttackingThird) June 4, 2022
A beautiful assist by Maria Sánchez 🤩 pic.twitter.com/7fN5VwiNiv
Lo’eau LaBonta, Kansas City Current
Lo’eau LaBonta played a key role as the Kansas City Current regained momentum in June. After going winless through May 30, the Current have been unbeaten since then, recording a win and two draws. LaBonta held the team steady with a 76 percent passing success rate and 60 percent tackle success rate.
Denise O’Sullivan, North Carolina Courage
Flying under the radar at times next to Debinha, Denise O’Sullivan has been a dominant presence in the Courage midfield with an 83.8 percent passing success rate and 60.7 percent success rate in tackles. On June 19 against the Dash, the Irish national team player scored a bullet of a goal from the top of Houston’s defense to open the scoring just five minutes into the match.
Lauren Barnes, OL Reign
New teammate Tobin Heath describes Lu Barnes as the smoothest outside back in the league, and Barnes has certainly been showing it both on and off the ball. Hitting her targets 70 percent of the time and winning over half of her tackles, Barnes consistently creates big scoring chances and pushes up the field to make overlapping runs and give the Reign a dangerous passing option from the left fullback position.
Naomi Girma, San Diego Wave FC
Making her second consecutive JWS Best XI appearance, the May Rookie of the Month has developed further into one of the most reliable players in the league. Playing every minute in June, she connected on her passes 84 percent of the time and won 70.8 percent of her duels.
Kelli Hubly, Portland Thorns FC
The most exciting part of Kelli Hubly’s month is that she scored her first NWSL career goal — a perfect header off of a Sophia Smith corner kick. Goals aside, Hubly’s composure and distribution have helped steady Portland’s backline as they’ve gone 3-0-1 in the month of June. With an 81 percent passing success rate, she is the only one on the team who’s played every minute of every game so far.
Natalia Kuikka, Portland Thorns FC
An NWSL June Best XI honoree as well, Natalia Kuikka has been one of the strongest defenders in the league this month. She played every minute for the Thorns in June, connecting on 77 percent of her passes while helping create chances and contributing to Portlands’ three shutouts. In a 6-0 win over the Orlando Pride, she also recorded her first goal of the season.
Alyssa Naeher, Chicago Red Stars
Coming into June without a shutout in 2022, Alyssa Naeher recorded three consecutive clean sheets to kick off the month. The only two goals the USWNT keeper conceded came in the fourth match, a 2-2 draw with the Current.
Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.
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