August was a disjointed month in the NWSL, as the league took an extended regular season break to finish the Challenge Cup group stage and make room for World Cup absences. With only two regular season games throughout the month, sample sizes for top performers have been small, while World Cup players have had variable availability.
Within that context, for the first time this season, our Player of the Month is a defender — and one who was not destined for international duty in 2023. A number of teams are making strong playoff pushes based on their ability to hold onto leads and grit out results, placing extra importance on defenders.
Here are our top performers for the month of August in the NWSL, beginning with our choice for Player of the Month.
Angel City FC is unbeaten in nine games across all competitions, with six of those wins coming in the regular season. Two of those games were in August, as the Los Angeles club makes a surge toward the playoffs.
Angel City’s newfound attacking tenacity has been critical to their success, but they’ve also been adept at turning close games into results. The player at the center of those efforts is center-back Sarah Gorden, who’s been remarkably steady in her first full season with the club.
Gorden is in the top five in American Soccer Analysis’ g+ metric for the August regular season, due to her excellent 1v1 defending and closing speed that allows her to interrupt opponents’ attacks. The Angel City defense gave up just two goals in two regular season games in August, securing a draw and the club’s first win ever against OL Reign.
In a season without many defensive stalwarts, Gorden has stood out, and now Angel City is finding the success it’s been looking for. Gorden surely has to be on the shortlist for 2023 NWSL Defender of the Year, as she gives her team a shot at its first-ever playoff berth.
Weaver notched a goal and an assist in two regular season games in August, as Portland went undefeated to regain the top spot on the NWSL table. Weaver is overshadowed at times by higher-profile teammates, such as Golden Boot leader Sophia Smith, but she serves as the motor that helps Portland’s attacking machine run.
so you agree? You think Morgan Weaver is really good at soccer 😎 pic.twitter.com/7sOF28oA8S— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) August 27, 2023
so you agree? You think Morgan Weaver is really good at soccer 😎 pic.twitter.com/7sOF28oA8S
Speaking of end-of-the-year shortlists, Messiah Bright’s case for Rookie of the Year is getting stronger by the game. The Pride dominated a struggling Chicago Red Stars team in their first regular season game of the month, with Bright scoring a brace in just 60 minutes played. The 2023 second-round pick now has six goals on the season, launching herself into the Golden Boot conversation as a rookie.
Simply in awe. The @martavieiras10 pass. The @messiah_bright finish. pic.twitter.com/7Z5F8cspd5— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) August 21, 2023
Simply in awe. The @martavieiras10 pass. The @messiah_bright finish. pic.twitter.com/7Z5F8cspd5
Abby Dahlkemper made a welcome return to the NWSL in August, after a back injury had held her out of competitive play for almost a year. Slotting back into San Diego’s starting defense, the World Cup champion helped seal two much-needed regular season wins as the Wave surged into third place. She capped her return month with a goal, opening the scoring in San Diego’s 2-1 win over Orlando on Friday.
Abby Dahlkemper, take a bow!What a way to start the match 🤩 pic.twitter.com/z5jc2Zl5MU— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) August 25, 2023
Abby Dahlkemper, take a bow!What a way to start the match 🤩 pic.twitter.com/z5jc2Zl5MU
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.