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Seattle Reign: 2016 Player Awards

Here’s the top 2016 player performances you voted on.

At the conclusion of the 2016 NWSL season we asked you to vote for the best individual performances and the most important moments for Seattle Reign FC. Though the season fell short of expectations, there were still a lot of positive memories to reflect on. We received nearly 150 votes; here are the players, performances, and moments that you voted for.

Defensive Player of the Year

While Reign FC’s offense struggled to produce for good portions of the year, the defense was well-organized and disciplined — allowing just 21 goals in 20 matches. And, just as readers have done each time we vote on these awards, you once again rated Lauren Barnes as the most important defensive player on the squad.

Seattle Reign vs. Boston Breakers: Photos Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

Barnes does all the little things right, and Reign fans have argued for years that she should see time on the USWNT. As Richard Farley notes for FourFourTwo — where Barnes ranked 28th among USWNT players — Barnes “is above average in almost all areas, but she doesn’t have one thing that makes onlookers say ‘she does [that] better than anyone.’”

Her efforts were finally noticed on a larger stage this season, as Barnes got her first USWNT callup in March, and was named NWSL Defender of the Year. It’s her combination of versatility, defensive positioning, and ability to fit into the Reign’s possession-heavy style of play that makes Barnes a perfect addition to the Reign backline — whether she’s lined up as a centerback or asked to play left back.

Seattle Reign vs. Orlando Pride: Photos Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

Coming in second in voting was the reliable Kendall Fletcher, who spent most of her time back in the center after tackling the right back role last season. While neither are flashy, Fletcher and Barnes work off one another effortlessly. Fletcher also provides a dangerous option on set pieces for Seattle. Against Orlando at home last season, Fletcher had a goal-line save, won a penalty kick, and scored off a corner. How’s that for a match?

Last season, Jess Fishlock and Keelin Winters tied for second in this category, but they fell further down the rankings this year — likely a combination of injuries and opponent tactical decisions against Seattle’s tough midfield.

Defensive Player of the Year

Name Votes
Name Votes
Lauren Barnes 32%
Kendall Fletcher 20%
Haley Kopmeyer 16%
Keelin Winters 15%
Jess Fishlock 10%
Hope Solo 7%

Rachel Corsie was not eligible for voting after missing a significant portion of the season due to injury, but we expect her to play a big role in 2017.

Offensive Player of the Year

While Seattle has dominated the league’s offensive stats for the last three years, the team scored just 29 goals in 20 matches this season — tied for 4th in the league. As teams switched up their tactical approach to defend Seattle’s dangerous attack, the team struggled to break through. One player, however, easily rose to the top of the offensive chart this year for fans: Netherlands international Manon Melis.

Seattle Reign vs. Boston Breakers: Photos Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

Despite missing five weeks due to a fractured leg, Melis had a team-leading 7 goals. Until this season, Melis has been much more of a direct-to-goal type of player — using her speed to get in behind defenses. It took her a few games to adjust to the league and the Reign’s possession-heavy style of play.

Once the squad figured out the best ways to unleash her, Melis got really dangerous. Her speed is lethal, and that lightning-fast quickness — combined with Melis’ smart runs — allowed the Reign to press early in a match for a goal. We’re sure going to miss her in 2017.

Offensive Player of the Year

Name Votes
Name Votes
Manon Melis 63%
Kim Little 30%
Naho Kawasumi 3%
Bev Yanez 3%
Jess Fishlock 1%

Breakout Player of the Year

It’s no surprise that Melis also got the most votes for breakout player of the year. Without her, Seattle wouldn’t have been pushing for the playoffs at the end of the season. First-round draft pick Carson Pickett also impressed readers, and she got 31% of your votes.

Reign vs Sky Blue: Photos Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

Like Melis, Pickett brought a lot of speed. She broke the curse of first-round draft picks getting season-ending injuries, and proved to be skilled on the ball and in possession of a great cross — including this game-winning assist in Seattle’s last match of the season.

While Pickett didn’t get as much playing time as many fans expected, she looks to be a long-term prospect for Laura Harvey, with the ability to line up either as a left back or higher up the field as a winger. We can’t wait to see what she produces this season.

Seattle Reign vs. WNY Flash Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

Japanese international Rumi Utsugi came mid-season and only got seven games in with Seattle, but quickly worked her way into the starting left back role. It sounds like she’ll be a mainstay in the Reign’s midfield this year — a position she’s played internationally, including with her national team.

Seattle Reign vs. Orlando Pride: Photos Photo Credit - MikeRussellFoto

University of Washington graduate Lindsay Elston was a constant spark off the bench. She often changed the energy of the game — providing tenacious pressure on the defensive end and moving the ball quickly on offense. The 24-year-old midfielder should get more looks in the coming season after the departure of Kim Little and Keelin Winters.

Breakout Player of the Year

Name Votes
Name Votes
Manon Melis 55%
Carson Pickett 31%
Rumi Utsugi 6%
Lindsay Elston 5%
Havana Solaun 2%
Michelle Cruz 1%

Coming tomorrow: we’ll unveil who you selected as the Team MVP, and which Seattle Reign moment readers voted as the most important. Make your predictions for these two categories in the comments!

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