Alex Morgan, Phallon Tullis-Joyce headline JWS’ NWSL Best XI for May

OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce leads the NWSL in shutouts and is second in saves. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL’s first full month of regular-season play has come to an end, not without a whole host of surprises since the North Carolina Courage were crowned Challenge Cup champions.

Just Women’s Sports puts a bow on the NWSL in May with the first monthly Best XI of the season. The first-place San Diego Wave FC and second-place OL Reign each earned three roster spots, while Angel City FC, tied for second in the standings, has two. Overall, five of the league’s 12 clubs are represented.

Alex Morgan, F, San Diego Wave FC

The Diamond Bar, Calif. native, in her first season with the Wave, has reached a new peak in her career. Leading the league in scoring with six goals, Morgan became the second player in league history to record six goals in the first six matches of the season, joining Christen Press. She’s recorded 15 shots and nine shots on goal — both the third most in the league this season.

Mallory Pugh, F, Chicago Red Stars

Pugh played only two games in May, but in this case, quality trumps quantity. She returned from a concussion on May 22 to tally three goals and an assist in just two games. Her speed and ball movement are the difference-maker in Chicago’s dangerous attack, with Pugh directly affecting nearly half of their nine goals.

Christen Press, F, Angel City FC

The action shot of Press jumping over a frazzled Trinity Rodman while the Washington forward is lying on the ground basically sums up the Angel City striker’s month. The threat she poses to opposing backlines in one-on-three situations with her speed and shot placement consistently leaves defenders wondering what they can possibly to do to stop her.

Taylor Kornieck, M, San Diego Wave FC

Kornieck has been a key playmaker for the breakout Wave, who are second in the NWSL with eight goals so far this season. A standout on headers and long through-balls, the former Pride player is also a box-to-box midfielder who creates chances of her own in front of the net (she’s currently ranked second in the league with 16 shots).

Sam Coffey, M, Portland Thorns FC

In five starts through five games, the rookie has logged an impressive 86.1 percent passing success rate, and her distribution has been key to the Thorns’ strategy to spread the field. Used to more of an attacking role, Coffey has been a quick learner in the six position.

Rose Lavelle, M, OL Reign

Lavelle has successfully carried out her roles in both distribution and in the attacking third, recording two goals and a 93.3 percent success rate in long passes. She leads the league in shots (21) and shots on goal (12). Her dribbles up the middle continue to set the Reign up for dangerous chances in the box.

Sofia Huerta, D, OL Reign

Huerta was one of the most notable chance creators in the NWSL this past month, assisting on header goals by Lavelle and Bethany Balcer. With five chances created on Wednesday against the Kansas City Current, she is now the top creator in the NWSL since 2016, tied with Lynn Williams at 188. And since Sunday, she is just one assist away from tying Jessica McDonald as the league’s all-time assists leader.

Katie Naughton, D, Houston Dash

The Dash have recorded two shutouts and only three goals against on their current four-game unbeaten streak, and Naughton is a big reason why. A highly underrated defender, the 28-year-old has put up unbelievable numbers since the season started, including a 100-percent tackle success rate, an 88.9 aerial duels winning percentage, an 82.2 percent success rate in passes and a 73.7 success rate in duels.

Naomi Girma, D, San Diego Wave FC

It’s easy to forget that Girma is only a rookie since she has transitioned so seamlessly into San Diego’s starting lineup. The 2022 No. 1 draft pick has played every minute of the Wave’s six matches and recorded an exceptional 85 percent passing success rate. Her calmness and composure are paramount to a backline that has conceded only three goals this season.

Jasmyne Spencer, D, Angel City FC

Having played for five NWSL teams since 2013, Spencer has found consistency with Angel City, starting all five games on a backline that’s allowed just two goals in May. Her hustle stood out in the Challenge Cup and hasn’t slowed down since. The former attacker shuts down the top forwards in the league, while also putting her own attacking skills to use on the flank.

Phallon Tullis-Joyce, GK, OL Reign

With four clean sheets, the Reign’s new starting goalkeeper now leads the NWSL in shutouts. Tullis-Joyce is also second in saves with 24, two behind the Kansas City Current’s Adrianna Franch, helping the Reign move into a tie for second place in the standings with just four goals against.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.