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Barnes ends Sauerbrunn’s run as top NWSL defender

Seattle Reign FC's Lauren Barnes won the 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year award. (Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer)

Seattle Reign FC’s Lauren Barnes won the 2016 NWSL Defender of the Year award. (Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer)

Seattle Reign FC’s Lauren Barnes was voted the 2016 National Women’s Soccer League Defender of the Year, the league announced on Wednesday.

Barnes played in all 20 games and played nearly every minute this season for Seattle, which fell short of the playoffs by 2 points after claiming the NWSL Shield in 2014 and 2015. The Reign, anchored by Barnes at center back, gave up 21 goals in 20 matches, tied for third-best in the league in 2016.

This marks the first time in league history that Becky Sauerbrunn did not win the NWSL Defender of the Year award. The FC Kansas City center back and U.S. international claimed the award in each of the first three years of the NWSL’s existence while helping guide FCKC to back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015.

Barnes beat out finalists Sauerbrunn, Portland Thorns defender Emily Menges and Chicago Red Stars defenders Julie Johnston and Arin Gilliland to win the award.

“It was an honor to be nominated alongside the best defenders in professional soccer,” Barnes said. “I’m humbled by this award and proud to represent my teammates, coaches, Reign ownership, our great fans and of course my family and friends. I want to thank everyone who took the time to vote and to all who support the NWSL.”

The NWSL will announce its MVP on Thursday. In previously announced awards this week, Portland’s Mark Parsons won Coach of the Year, Sky Blue FC’s Raquel Rodriguez won Rookie of the Year and Orlando Pride’s Ashlyn Harris won Goalkeeper of the Year.

The NWSL awards are voted on by club officials, players, media that cover the league on a consistent basis and fans.

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