While they didn’t make the playoffs for the second year in a row, and said goodbye to the only coach they’ve known in the offseason, Seattle Reign FC players left us with a lot of great memories this season: beautiful goals, triumphant returns from injuries, record-breaking matches, and so much more.
As we close out the year, help us remember the highs and lows of the season by voting for Ride of the Valkyries' 2017 Seattle Reign FC player awards. The poll is at the bottom, and below are some details on the players up for consideration this year.
Defensive Player of the Year
It wasn’t the team’s best showing on defense this year — they gave up 37 goals in 24 games — but some players came up big throughout the season. These were the four defensive players who showed the most promise and consistency this year.
- Lauren Barnes (22 matches, 1811 minutes): The team co-captain was fourth in the league in touches per 90 minutes and connected 79.5% of her passes, demonstrating her immense contribution to the Reign’s possession-focused attack. Barnes also won 57.4% of duels, had 72 clearances, and won 67.4% of her tackles.
- Carson Pickett (21 matches, 1869 minutes): The left back came into her own in 2017, earning the most minutes of anyone along the backline. She won 134 duels (53.7%), had 49 clearances, and won 73.5% of her tackles. She also got up the field more this season, whipping in 32 crosses.
- Rebekah Stott (22 matches, 1714 minutes): The New Zealand defender led the team in duels won (68.5%), while conceding just 4 fouls all season. She also won 75.4% of her tackles, had 65 clearances, and linked up well with Naho Kawasumi on the right, earning 1 assist on the season.
- Rumi Utsugi (20 matches, 1663 minutes): Utsugi was an important shield for a rotating backline, providing much-needed support and pressure. She connected 79.7% of her passes and earned 1 goal and 1 assist, while also winning 68.6% of her tackles — many of which came in critical positions on the field.
Offensive Player of the Year
- Jess Fishlock: 7 goals, 2 assists
- Naho Kawasumi: 6 goals, 9 assists
- Megan Rapinoe: 12 goals, 1 assist
Which player was the most valuable to the team this season as it fought to get into the playoffs?
- Jess Fishlock: There is no player who works harder to help the team win than Fishlock, and she proved it time and time again this year. Co-captain Fishlock earned a spot in the NWSL Best XI and scored 7 goals along with 2 assists.
- Naho Kawasumi: Naho was one assist away from tying an NWSL record for the season, and managed to score six goals alongside her nine assists. The forward showed no sign of slowing down in 2017, earning a team-high 1917 minutes over 24 matches and attempting 785 passes, the most for any Reign FC forward.
- Megan Rapinoe: Rapinoe returned from a significant injury in bold fashion, putting herself in contention for the NWSL MVP Award and scoring a team-high 12 goals. Her absence in August due to a knee injury was certainly felt, as her relentless energy on both offense and defense carried the team to victory on multiple occasions.
- Rumi Utsugi: Utsugi was voted by her teammates as club MVP, and it’s easy to see why. Her 1 goal and 2 assists don’t truly do justice to her performance this year. While she missed some time due to injury, Utsugi was a crucial link between the defense and attack. After playing left back in 2016, she integrated well with midfield partners Fishlock and Christine Nairn.
Breakout Player of the Year
A number of rookie players and newcomers stepped up. Which new player had the most important contribution to the team this season?
- Katie Johnson: After a stellar performance in the 2016 NCAA College Cup with USC, the rookie played the role of “super sub” for Reign FC in 2017, scoring 4 goals and assisting on two others in just 797 minutes. She showed excellent hold-up play and linked well with her teammates. It’s exciting to think about what she can do with more playing time next season.
- Kristen McNabb: A fourth-round pick in the draft, McNabb was forced into the starting lineup in the home opener due to injuries. The centerback stepped up and went on to play 1307 minutes. She took some time to catch up to the fast pace of the NWSL, but one thing was clear: she had nerves of steel. McNabb is currently honing her skills in Australia and should play a big role next season.
- Rebekah Stott: Stott was an exciting addition to the Reign FC backline. In addition to her strong defensive performance (see above), she was constantly linking up with Naho and pushing the ball up the field along the flank. Fans likely can recall Stott’s once-a-game walkabout from defense into the opponent’s 18-yard-box — weaving in and out of traffic with ease.
That’s our list. Let us know if you think we missed anyone in the comments, and vote using the form below. We’ll share the results in the New Year.