With the Challenge Cup championship only days away, we are crowning our tournament Best XI ahead of Saturday’s tilt between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Portland Thorns.
In no particular order…
GK: Ashlyn Harris, Orlando Pride
Harris strung together a series of outstanding performances during the Challenge Cup, earning two clean sheets and maintaining an 84.2% save success rate throughout Orlando’s four games. Most notably, Harris stopped two penalty kicks within a week’s time — one against the Washington Spirit and one against NJ/NY Gotham FC — earning the honor of Budweiser’s Player of the Week in the second week of the tournament.
Nothing was getting by @Ashlyn_Harris. Congrats on the @NWSL Player of the Week honors 😈 #CC21 | #AdAstra pic.twitter.com/axzCTDuNab— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) April 22, 2021
Nothing was getting by @Ashlyn_Harris. Congrats on the @NWSL Player of the Week honors 😈 #CC21 | #AdAstra pic.twitter.com/axzCTDuNab
D: Brooke Hendrix, Racing Louisville FC
A staple in Louisville’s backline, Hendrix notched 16 clearances, 4 blocks and 3 interceptions through the group stage of the Challenge Cup, as well as a 60% success rate in tackles and a 65.2% success rate in duels. The defender also scored a goal during the team’s inaugural match, equalizing for Louisville in stoppage time against Orlando.
LATE DRAMA!Brooke Hendrix makes it 2-2 🔥 pic.twitter.com/5O786baeD0— CBS Sports Soccer (@CBSSportsSoccer) April 11, 2021
LATE DRAMA!Brooke Hendrix makes it 2-2 🔥 pic.twitter.com/5O786baeD0
D: Gina Lewandowski, NJ/NY Gotham FC
A key component in securing Gotham FC’s championship berth, Lewandowski’s passing precision was heavily relied upon as she boasted an impressive 83% passing success rate through 360 minutes of play, completing 176 of 212 attempted passes and also adding 23 clearances. In the defensive third, Lewandowski maintained 85% passing accuracy, averaging 53 passes per 90 minutes.
D: Sarah Gorden, Chicago Red Stars
Also a force on the backline was Sarah Gorden, who was dominant across the board. Gorden maintained an 80% success rate in tackles, a 73.3% success rate in duels, and a 100% success rate in aerial duels. Still not impressed? The defender also notched nine clearances, one block and two interceptions, helping limit all West Division opponents to five goals total.
D: Kelli Hubly, Portland Thorns
The unsung hero of the Portland defense, Hubly posted phenomenal stats throughout the tournament — a 100% success rate in tackles, a 68.2% success rate in duels, and a 75% success rate in aerial duels — while also tallying 26 clearances, two blocks, and eight interceptions. Likewise dominant was her passing accuracy, as she completed 131 of 156 attempted passes for an 84% passing success rate. Often overlooked among the Thorns’ star names, Hubly is as reliable as they come in the defensive third.
M: Debinha, North Carolina Courage
Perhaps one of the most dominant offensive players of the Challenge Cup, Debinha scored three goals (two of which came in the same match), played seven key passes and maintained a 60% success rate in long passes, as she helped lift the Courage to a 2-1-1 record in tournament play. When paired with teammates Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald, the Brazilian international was nearly unstoppable, taking 16 total shots throughout four games.
Debinha.That's it, that's the tweet.#LOUvNC | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #CC21 pic.twitter.com/RZx4pOc9NT— National Women's Soccer League (@NWSL) April 26, 2021
Debinha.That's it, that's the tweet.#LOUvNC | https://t.co/0LtSAUK1Jw | #CC21 pic.twitter.com/RZx4pOc9NT
M: Kristie Mewis, Houston Dash
Though Mewis only appeared in two matches for the Dash, her tournament performance was certainly of note. The midfielder scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Kansas City NWSL, earning herself Budweiser Player of the Week honors for her impressive showing. In the two games that Mewis did not appear in, the Dash failed to score, a telling sign of just how valuable Mewis was.
M/F: Cece Kizer, Racing Louisville FC
Called a “hidden gem” by Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly, Kizer boasted a 66.7% goal conversion rate through four games, scoring two goals on only three shots while also assisting another. Kizer made history in her first Challenge Cup appearance, scoring Louisville’s first-ever goal against the Orlando Pride. If her Challenge Cup performances prove anything, it’s that the 24 year old could prove to be a cornerstone player for the NWSL’s newest club.
We have history!Cece Kizer scores the first goal for @RacingLouFC 💫 pic.twitter.com/GA0fwB8zXR— CBS Sports Soccer (@CBSSportsSoccer) April 10, 2021
We have history!Cece Kizer scores the first goal for @RacingLouFC 💫 pic.twitter.com/GA0fwB8zXR
F: Midge Purce, NJ/NY Gotham FC
Yet another key player in punching Gotham’s ticket to the championship game, Purce bagged two goals in the highest-scoring match in Challenge Cup history, as Gotham beat North Carolina 4-3. In 269 minutes played, the forward added four interceptions, a successful cross and two key passes, linking with teammates Carli Lloyd and Paige Monaghan to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
F: Trinity Rodman, Washington Spirit
Making headlines throughout the Challenge Cup was rookie Trinity Rodman, who started three of four matches for the Washington Spirit and logged her first professional goal against the NC Courage. The 18-year-old was selected second overall in this year’s NWSL draft, and following her tournament performance, some wonder if she should have gone first. Rodman tallied 11 shots, six of which were on target, while also adding 11 key passes and an assist.
First touch 🥵 https://t.co/3IHNV73z0D— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) April 10, 2021
First touch 🥵 https://t.co/3IHNV73z0D
F: Jessica McDonald, North Carolina Courage
Playing an integral role in five of the nine goals scored by the Courage during the Challenge Cup, McDonald recorded three assists and two goals in 343 minutes of tournament play, as well as four shots on target and an 83.3% success rate in long passes. After opting out of the 2020 Fall Series due to COVID-19 concerns, it seems that the forward has not missed a beat in her return to the Courage.