The votes have been tallied, and your Reign FC team MVP for 2019 is goalkeeper Casey Murphy. Murphy received the support of just under 50% of Ride of the Valkyries voters, far ahead of her competition in the category. Others who received a significant number of votes included defender Lauren Barnes (16%), forward Bethany Balcer (16%), and midfielder Bev Yanez (14%).
Murphy, who joined Reign FC on May 15 after two years with Montpellier HSC in France’s Division 1 Féminine, initially arrived with the expectation that she would back up Michelle Betos while Reign FC’s other goalkeeper, Lydia Williams, was away with Australia at the World Cup. Instead, Murphy was pressed into service almost immediately, after Betos ruptured her Achilles tendon three days later in a match against Sky Blue FC.
Indeed, former Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski surely didn’t realize how prescient his words would be at the time of the signing, when he said, “We know that [Murphy] will be able to help us this season.”
Murphy started the following match against North Carolina, helping guide Reign FC to a 2-1 victory and their first-ever win over the Courage, and never looked back as she started all 19 remaining regular-season games for the Tacoma-based side, along with their playoff semifinal against the Courage.
She finished the regular season with a record of 9-5-5, conceding 21 goals on 94 shots on goal and keeping six clean sheets. Her save percentage of 77.7% was best among goalkeepers who faced at least 40 shots, and was second only to teammate Michelle Betos (82.4%) among goalkeepers who started at least two games. She was nominated for NWSL Save of the Week on 11 occasions, winning the Week 25 vote for her diving tip of a Marta rocket to the upper 90 from 25 yards out.
Perhaps nowhere was Murphy’s contribution more notable than in the semifinal loss to North Carolina, where she was shelled. The Courage launched 24 shots in regulation time, plus another 11 in extra time. Murphy stood tall in net, making eight challenging saves to keep the game at zeroes before Heather O’Reilly finally converted a penalty in the 88th minute. Reign FC equalized in stoppage time, but it was not enough as they fell 4-1 in extra time.
Murphy’s 2019 efforts also earned her a nomination for NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, where she finished second with 30% of the vote, 15 points behind winner Aubrey Bledsoe of the Washington Spirit.
Internationally, Murphy was called into the U.S. U-23 WNT in August for the Nordic Tournament. She started all three matches, conceding only one goal. She was also invited to this month’s full USWNT talent identification camp. No official games are scheduled during this camp, but she and club teammate Bethany Balcer will have an opportunity to impress Andonovski and the rest of the USWNT coaching staff as they seek to expand the player pool for the future.
Murphy is under contract with Reign FC for 2020, and all indications are that they see her as their goalkeeper of the present and the future.
In the coming weeks we will unveil your selections for Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Unsung Hero of the Year, and Story of the Year.