Evans! [insert Harry Potter reference]
I submitted my ballot for the NWSL awards last night, a little early because I’m heading to New York City this weekend. (And, if you are in the city, I asked The Australian bar on 34th between 5th and 6th to air the WNY Flash vs Boston Breakers game, and they have said they can make it happen. So come and watch an NWSL game in a soccer bar, and since it’s an Australian joint, we will talk a lot about Kyah Simon and Sam Kerr.)
Most of my votes will probably fall in line with the end result: Lauren Holiday for MVP, Becky Sauerbrunn for Defender of the Year, Erika Tymrak for Rookie of the Year, Karina LeBlanc for Goalkeeper of the Year. I’m guessing that’s what we’ll see announced starting next week, although it is up for grabs with the weighting of the votes being a little unexpected. Jeff tweeted that information out, which sees owners/GMs/coaches at 25%, the media with 25%, and the players getting a whopping 50% of the final weight of the results.
I think the players will generally be fine voting – many of the players I know or follow on Twitter talked a lot about watching other games in the league, not to mention watching video as part of their official prep work for each game. They (and the owners/GMs/coaches) are not allowed to vote for themselves or people from their own team, from what I understand.
I did want to touch briefly on someone I didn’t put in my Top 3 for Rookie of the Year, but I’m still excited about as a player. When you cover a team, week in and week out, and manage to get to a couple of practices, you develop a different way of interpreting the team’s performance than one you might just see on livestreams and in person once or twice a year. I think way too much about the way the Breakers are playing and what works and what doesn’t compared to Seattle Reign FC, and it’s simply a case of knowing the team more.
Maddy Evans was the 4th round (29th) pick for the Breakers, and not a surprising one, considering the summer before she had trained with the team and played for Aztec MA in the WPSL. She ended up making the roster after the departure of Lisa-Marie Woods, and has ten appearances/two starts with 362 minutes logged, with the last week of the regular season still left to play. Evans ended up tied in with Lisa Cole’s Rhian Wilkinson roaming-midfielder experiment, which hasn’t been perfect, but was a mid-season adjustment that did make a difference for the Breakers.
Evans has that rookie drive and engine that is just fun to watch. There are still elements of her game that she’ll need to work on in the off-season, and she’s going to need to improve the fitness and conditioning levels in order to keep up with NWSL expectations, but when I think about rookies right out of college this year, that I just loved watching as they adapted and upped their game? Erika Tymrak, Mana Shim, Maddy Evans. It was nice to have one of those at home.
The Best XI was a little tougher, and instead of having an endless mental argument with myself, I just started writing down names that felt right after the season we’ve seen so far. Is it a perfect assessment of the top eleven players in this league right now? Probably not. There are definitely names that could go on here instead, and would deserve the vote. But I’d also defend every name I have listed on here as well. It’s a nice problem to have too much talent in the league, right?
Here’s my Best XI:
Goalkeeper: Karina LeBlanc
Defenders: Becky Sauerbrunn, Christie Rampone, Leigh Ann Robinson, Brittany Taylor(*)
Midfielders/Forwards: Lauren Holiday, Diana Matheson, Abby Wambach, Lori Chalupny, Lianne Sanderson, Jess Fishlock
Tomorrow or tonight I’ll get into my pick for Coach of the Year. It’s not who you’re going to expect. (Unless I’ve previously talked to you about it, and then, well, yes, it’s that coach.)
(* Correction, I had incorrectly typed Lindsay in the first draft. Thanks to @arusulato30 for bringing it up.)