With nearly 70% of the vote, your 2019 defender of the year is Reign FC original, Lauren Barnes. Barnes, who led all Reign players with 2,190 minutes played over 24 appearances in 2019, anchored a backline that conceded the third-fewest goals in the league despite significant injuries and absences throughout the season.
Others who received notable support for this award were goalkeeper Casey Murphy (12.5%) and centerback Megan Oyster (9%).
Barnes missed only one match all season, due to yellow card accumulation, and played the full 90 in every other game. She conceded only nine fouls on the year (while winning 10), won 72.2% of attempted tackles, had 79 clearances, and led the team by winning over 59% of her 113 attempted duels, exemplifying the shutdown nature of her role on the backline.
As part of Reign FC’s playing style of building out of the back with purposeful possession, Barnes led the team with 1,609 touches and 1,323 pass attempts, third-highest in the league. She completed nearly 80% of those passes, behind only Allie Long (85%).
Always humble and rarely flashy, Barnes’ skill and contributions can be easy to overlook. Her smart positioning means she rarely needs to make last-ditch highlight reel tackles, and she is rarely a contributor on the score sheet, but her teams concede few goals thanks in large part to her brick wall defense.
Remarkably, Barnes has never been named league Player of the Week and was only named to a Team of the Month once — in September 2019. She hasn’t been called into a USWNT camp since 2016, but she has been recognized on the NWSL Best XI twice (2015 and 2016), as well as Second XI in 2014 and 2019. She has also been a finalist for NWSL Defender of the Year on three occasions, including this season. She won the award in 2016 and came in third this year, behind repeat winner Becky Sauerbrunn and Chicago Red Stars fullback Casey Short.
Barnes is currently in Australia playing her fourth season with Melbourne City FC. She has won three Grand Finals in the W-League, one with Melbourne Victory and two with City, and was named to the W-League Team of the Year for 2017-18. She is currently out-of-contract with Reign FC, but the team has extended her a new offer.