With the 2020 NWSL season never happening because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was the first full season back for Fishlock after sustaining an ACL tear halfway through the 2019 season. And much like fans have come to expect from her, Fishlock did not miss a beat in being every bit of an impact player all over the field for OL Reign. Fishlock scored five goals and claimed four assists this season, with one of her five being this rocket as part of OL Reign’s five-goal demolition of the Houston Dash in August.
“If you speak to most people around the league and ask the coaches if they could take one player from our team, it would always be [Jess]. I think that’s just a compliment of what she’s always brought to this team. The journey that she’s been on to get to this point has been phenomenal. I’m glad that she’s getting some recognition that she deserves,” said OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey in the team’s press release. Harvey was also today announced as 2021 NWSL Coach of the Year.
Being a Reign Original, this MVP honor does feel like something of a lifetime achievement award to Fishlock given the consistent impact she has both on and off the field as one of the co-captains and leaders in the locker room. Whether you’ve been following the team since the inaugural season of play in 2013 or joined the fun this year, everyone knows that the heart and soul of the Reign always has been and will continue to be Jess Fishlock.
And with the team’s struggles on the field this year to make a perhaps impossible climb to a top-two finish, one of the key drivers was Fishlock. In her 23 games (21 starts) this season, Fishlock posted a passing accuracy of 76%, with 47 key passes credited to her. Defensively, The Dragon remains one of the toughest box-to-box midfielders around, having won 63% of tackles, 13 clearances, and 21 interceptions. The highlight of her never-surrender engine on defense this season was winning NWSL Save of the Week honors for this goal-line clearance in October.
Previous NWSL seasons have had a more clear-cut candidate for MVP honors, but this season with the parity around the league, every finalist had as much of a solid case as did Fishlock. Chicago forward Mallory Pugh finished second in MVP voting, while NJ/NY Gotham FC forward Margaret Purce was third, Washington striker Ashley Hatch was fourth and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Angela Salem came in fifth. The finalists were voted on by fans (10%), owners/general managers/coaches (20%), players (50%) and media (20%).