The NWSL announced today that Seattle Reign FC’s Lauren Barnes was voted by fans, club officials, players, and the media as the 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year. This is the first time somebody not named Becky Sauerbrunn has won the award.
Along with Sauerbrunn, Barnes, 27, was nominated with Julie Johnston and Arin Gilliland of the Chicago Red Stars, and Emily Mengers of Portland Thorns FC.
“It was an honor to be nominated alongside the best defenders in professional soccer,” said Barnes. “I’m humbled by this award and proud to represent my teammates, coaches, Reign ownership, our great fans and of course my family and friends. I want to thank everyone who took the time to vote and to all who support the NWSL.”
While Seattle’s offense lacked punch for big portions of the season — a key factor in their playoff absence — the team’s defense was among the best in the league, and Barnes played a critical role in this.
She started in all 20 of Reign FC’s matches — playing 1,775 minutes this season — and helped the team set two league records: most consecutive shutouts (5) and most minutes without conceding a goal (531). Seattle also tied for the most shutouts in the league (8), and the team spent the fewest number of minutes trailing matches (317).
With her strong left foot, Barnes also contributed to the team offensively on set pieces. She took 43 of Reign FC’s 71 corner kicks, earning two assists along the way. Barnes also scored her second-ever NWSL goal on a beautifully taken free kick against the Chicago Red Stars.
Barnes has arguably been Seattle’s most consistent defender since joining the team in 2013. In fact, she’s earned Sounder at Heart’s Defender of the Year award each year we’ve hosted it. Barnes has great positional awareness and never seems to get caught too far wide or let players slip into the box. This year, she was asked to play a combination of leftback and centerback — transitioning fairly seamlessly between the two. It’s fantastic to see her finally get league-wide recognition this year.
Coincidentally, Seattle Reign FC has been releasing team awards this week, and the players, coaches, and staff voted Barnes’ partner on defense, Kendall Fletcher, as Defender of the Year and Team MVP. These two have formed a strong partnership, and its fair to say they have both excelled because of one another.
Will this award get Barnes another look on the U.S. Women’s National Team? It seems unlikely, but at least fans can celebrate the fact that the 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year plays in Seattle.