Just three games remain in the NWSL regular season, and the players are continuing to make their case in their campaigns for the end-of-year awards.
Since Just Women’s Sports’ last check-in, no one player has pushed to the front of the pack, setting the stage for a frantic final push. Here are the players to watch in the final weeks of the season.
Shortlist: Adriana, Kerolin, Morgan Weaver, Ashley Hatch
While it remains unclear whether or not Smith will make her return from an MCL sprain during the regular season, she is back training with Portland. And her work early on in the season still puts her ahead of everyone else in the MVP race. Not only does she lead the league in goals scored with 11, she’s also second in the league in assists with five. Her goals per 90 sits at 0.88, far ahead of the next best in the league (Kerolin, 0.57). Teams don’t have an answer for the reigning MVP, and Portland has missed her in her absence.
Elsewhere, Smith’s teammate Morgan Weaver has been putting together her own case for MVP in the final weeks of the season. She’s got three goals in three games and is putting up better numbers than anyone else in the league right now.
Shortlist: Tatumn Milazzo, Sarah Gorden, Natalia Kuikka, Sam Staab
Fresh off a contract extension, Tara McKeown has had a standout season alongside Sam Staab. The 24-year-old defender ranks first in the league in clearances and sixth in interceptions. But while she’s been a steady presence for the Spirit, Washington hasn’t won in six games, which puts her in a tough spot.
Meanwhile, Tatumn Milazzo has once again been a bright spot for a Chicago Red Stars back line that has struggled but has started to find its groove toward the end of the season. And Sarah Gorden has had a great bounce-back season from an ACL tear for Angel City, who remain in playoff contention.
Shortlist: Casey Murphy, Kailen Sheridan, Jane Campbell
Katie Lund leads the league in many goalkeeping categories, and she has been one of the big reasons for Racing Louisville’s turnaround this season. She’s allowed among the fewest goals in the league per 90 (1.00) – with Jane Campbell of the Houston Dash the only goalkeeper to allow fewer goals (0.79).
While Louisville is still searching for its identity, Lund has managed to keep them in the conversation for the playoffs.
Shortlist: Sean Nahas, Juan Carlos Amorós, Mike Norris
Becki Tweed might be the interim head coach for Angel City, but she’s led the team on an astounding turnaround after the team parted ways with Freya Coombe in June. Since then, the team has put together an 11-game unbeaten streak. Not much has changed; Tweed has just made things a little bit clearer and in turn has made Angel City a possible postseason contender.
If Angel City qualifies for the playoffs, naming Tweed as coach of the year is a no-brainer. But Sean Nahas has led Gotham on a tear in his first year as head coach, turning them into one of the best teams in the league. Part of the success is due to the addition of Lynn Williams. But he’s also managed to bring World Cup champion Esther González to the NWSL, which has further boosted the club as it makes a push for the playoffs. If the winner of this award isn’t Tweed, Nahas should take it home.
Shortlist: Alyssa Thompson, Paige Metayer, Jenna Nighswonger
This year’s Rookie of the Year race is less clear-cut, but Messiah Bright has continued to stand out amongst the rookie class. Her six goals lead all rookies, and she’s worked well with Adriana and Marta down in Orlando.
Alyssa Thompson also has been a bright spot for Angel City, putting her in contention for this award. She came out hot in her first NWSL season and has been consistently getting better as the season has progressed.