10 must-see goals from this NWSL season

(Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The 2021 NWSL season featured a plethora of stunning goals. From long-range bangers to cheeky chips, the regular season was packed with quality finishes which flexed the talent saturation of the league.

Though it’s a tall order to select the year’s top goals, a few plays rose above the rest, defining the NWSL season that was.

These are the 10 must-see goals from this 2021 NWSL season:

1. Jess Fishlock’s long-range effort

OL Reign midfielder and league MVP Jess Fishlock is no stranger to a long-range shot. The Welsh star has proved herself dangerous from any distance, causing problems for defenses across the NWSL.

Fishlocks’s banger from outside the box in OL Reign’s October matchup against Chicago showcased the 34-year-old’s shot-making ability and her command over the midfield. Her equalizer was one of her five goals on the season as well as one of the most stunning finishes of the year.

2. Trinity Rodman’s crazy assist

Trinity Rodman burst onto the scene in 2021, putting together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in NWSL history. Her assist to Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch in the Spirit’s October 3-0 win over Racing Louisville was likewise one of the most impressive services of the year, highlighting the 18-year-old’s technical ability and defensive commitment.

Winning the ball in the midfield, Rodman perfectly picked out Hatch, putting the ball on a platter for the Washington striker to slot home.

3. Ebony Salmon’s NWSL debut

Ebony Salmon wasted no time making her mark on the NWSL, scoring in her first two minutes on the pitch. The English striker opened up her account with Racing Louisville in June, setting herself up with creative skill to notch her first finish with flare.

The 20-year-old finished her inaugural season with six goals and one assist, giving Racing Louisville fans a lot to look forward to in 2022.

4. Sophia Smith’s sensational strike

Sophia Smith showed why she is considered the future of the USWNT’s attack, striking a sensational ball from outside the box to beat Ashlyn Harris at the near post. The 21-year-old’s finish helped Portland to a 2-1 win over the Pride, catapulting the team to the top of the table just before the Olympics.

The moral of the story — be weary of giving Smith time and space.

5. Caprice Dydasco’s “shross”

Caprice Dydasco’s first NWSL goal was a stunner, albeit confounding to categorize. The NWSL Defender of the Year’s finish looked to some to be a cross that tucked into the back of the net. To others, it was a stunning curler.

Whatever Dydasco’s intention, her June finish for Gotham FC was one of the most impeccable goals of the year.

6. Eugénie Le Sommer puts her defender on skates

Eugenie Le Sommer’s first OL Reign goal was arguably the league’s best finish of the season. The French forward put her defender on skates before curling the ball past the fully extended Louisville keeper to open her OL Reign account in stunning fashion.

Le Sommer’s July finish kicked off a stellar campaign with the NWSL club, scoring eight goals in 18 matches.

7. Emina Ekic plays hometown hero

Racing Louisville clinched the club’s first-ever win with a 2-0 shutout over the Washington Spirit in May. Emina Ekic, a Louisville native and graduate of the University of Louisville, notched the team’s go-ahead goal, evading a swarm of defenders before striking a banger into the far post.

The moment was the stuff of movies, galvanizing her hometown crowd in a franchise-defining moment.

8. Christine Sinclair’s chip 

Christine Sinclair is a soccer legend, making even the most difficult skills look effortless. The Portland star’s finish in her team’s May rivalry matchup against OL Reign was no different. Karen Bardsley’s deflected save fell to Sinclair, who, with precision, chipped the Reign keeper for a cheeky and memorable goal.

38 years old, Sinclair still hasn’t lost a step.

9. Crystal Dunn from deep

For those who forgot, Crystal Dunn can score goals. While USWNT fans may be accustomed to seeing Dunn at outside back, for Portland, the 29-year-old plays higher up the pitch in her preferred position.

Dunn showed off her attacking skills in May when she hit a banger into the upper 90, beating her Gotham defender at the top of the box and reminding us all of what she’s capable of.

10. Gotham FC’s team goal

Gotham FC showed a team goal could be just as thrilling as an individual flash of brilliance, executing one of the most comprehensive plays of the year. Margaret Purce finished off the buildup play, which started with the team’s backline. Ifeoma Onumonu set up a dummy for Carli Lloyd before making a critical overlapping run, notching the assist.

The October finish showed just what this burgeoning Gotham team is capable of. Lloyd may be gone in 2022, but an influx of USWNT stars has the New Jersey/New York club looking to continue their ascent.