Now that the NWSL playoffs are underway — with Kansas City and San Diego winning Sunday’s quarterfinals to move onto semifinal matchups with OL Reign and the Portland Thorns, respectively — Just Women’s Sports is handing out 2022 end-of-season awards.
Based on the list of award nominees individual performances from the end of April to the beginning of October, here are our picks for the NWSL’s Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and Coach of the Year.
Drum roll, please …
Mallory Pugh, Chicago Red Stars
Mallory Pugh can do it all. Finishing the regular season just four goals behind Golden Boot winner Alex Morgan, she was the league’s fifth-top scorer with 11 goals, tied for the lead in assists with six, and in the upper ranks with an 80 percent tackle success rate. The chemistry she built with her Red Stars teammates was integral to their success, as they claimed the last playoff spot on the final day of the regular season and went toe-to-toe with the San Diego Wave in the quarterfinals.
In addition to setting up her teammates, Pugh showed that she could single-handedly carry the ball through walls of defenders and create scoring chances for herself when she needed to. Nominated for NWSL MVP last year as well, Pugh is continuing to play the best soccer of her career.
Carson Pickett, North Carolina Courage
Named to four NWSL Teams of the Month this season, Carson Pickett has been the best fullback in the league. She finished the year tied for first in with six assists and in first with 52 chances created. Defensively, Pickett had a tackle success rate of 71 percent and registered 36 interceptions, six blocks and 32 clearances. She also scored a goal and helped the Courage emerge as one the most improved teams this season, rising to seventh place and one spot from a playoff berth after spending the first half of the year at the bottom of the standings.
AD Franch, Kansas City Current
AD Franch has been on her A game through all 1,800 minutes of the 20 matches she’s played this year. The highest-ranked goalkeeper in career playoff saves with 66, she recorded a league second-best five shutouts and a 72.5 percent save percentage in the regular season. Her ability to come up big in important moments, including penalty saves, helped Kansas City go on a 13-game unbeaten streak and reach the playoffs for the first time. After another dazzling performance in the quarterfinals on Sunday, Franch and the Current head to Seattle to play OL Reign in the semifinals.
Naomi Girma, San Diego Wave FC
The talent in the 2022 rookie pool runs deep, but leading the pack is Naomi Girma, one of the most consistent and reliable defenders in the league. Starting all 19 games for the Wave this season, she won 71 percent of her duels and registered 14 blocks and 24 interceptions. Her 95 clearances contributed to San Diego ranking second in the league in clearances per match. In possession, the No. 1 draft pick had an 83 percent passing accuracy and a 41 percent long-ball success rate, in addition to six key passes. She was named to four NWSL Teams of the Month and honored as Rookie of the Month twice, in May and September.
Laura Harvey, OL Reign
There’s not a lot the OL Reign haven’t accomplished this year under Laura Harvey, most notably coming from behind to win their third NWSL Shield and tie the North Carolina Courage for the most in the league. Their defense recorded the most clean sheets in the league (nine) and the fewest number of goals against (19). On the attack, the Reign ranked second in shots (265) and shots on goal (129), and third in big chances created (38). Not only has Harvey created a successful product on the field, but she has also fostered a team culture in which players of all ages and levels can thrive.
Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.