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Boston Breakers

Run of Play: Mid-Season MVPs

We could probably debate all day as to what makes a player the most valuable. For example, the NWSL has a history of awarding Most Valuable Player to the Golden Boot winner. Some say it’s simple statistics, looking at how many numbers they put on the board. Others say it’s a more unquantifiable quality, the idea that one player’s form can be a barometer for the entire team. In attempting to gauge each teams’ mid-season MVP, I looked at the numbers, and I looked at the games, and ultimately I came up with players that just make their team better when they’re on the pitch.

BOSTON BREAKERS

Angela Salem has risen to the occasion in Boston. (photo copyright Linehan Photography for The Equalizer)

Angela Salem has risen to the occasion in Boston. (photo copyright Linehan Photography for The Equalizer)

Angela Salem

Rose Lavelle was an early frontrunner for this honor, but she’s missed several games with injury and had an unremarkable few weeks before that. Salem has been quietly efficient at her job and should be particularly lauded for relieving pressure on a backline that has been pummeled with injuries. She can most often be found cleaning up messes in the midfield. The veteran defensive midfielder is also a calming presence who brings leadership to a team still searching for its identity.

Runner up: Adriana Leon

The forward leads the team in assists and is second in goals, earning her a return call up to the Canadian women’s national team for being a menace on the flank.

CHICAGO RED STARS

Moving Julie Ertz to the midfield has really made a difference for the Red Stars. (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Moving Julie Ertz to the midfield has really made a difference for the Red Stars. (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Julie Ertz

It’s the move of Ertz from defense to midfield that is responsible for Chicago’s success as much as anything, pushing Vanessa DiBernardo and Danielle Colaprico into more attacking roles. She can be found up and down the spine of the field, dropping deep to restart the attack or driving forward to create chances. She even led the team in goals early on while the offense found its rhythm. Ertz is a constantly menacing presence, leading the team in fouls both conceded and won.

Runner up: Christen Press

Chicago’s offense may be overly reliant on Press, but that underlines her value even more. She has more than twice the shots of anyone else on the team and leads the league as well.

FC KANSAS CITY

Nicole Barnhart has been a perennial force in net for FCKC. (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Nicole Barnhart has been a perennial force in net for FCKC. (photo copyright Lewis Gettier)

Nicole Barnhart

Starting goalkeeper for FCKC since the team’s inception, Barnhart looks better than ever. She organizes her box well, is unafraid to come off her line, and is willing to sacrifice her body to make the save. She also hasn’t conceded a single goal off a set piece or penalty. On a team where offensive struggle is becoming a common theme, having a keeper like Barnhart in net is more important than ever.

Runner up: Becky Sauerbrunn

Part of Barnhart’s success lies with Sauerbrunn, who is the anchor of the backline, with the most clearances on the team.

HOUSTON DASH

Carli Lloyd returned to the Dash after spending the spring with Manchester City. (Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer)

Carli Lloyd returned to the Dash after spending the spring with Manchester City. (Photo Copyright Clark Linehan for The Equalizer)

Carli Lloyd

If Kealia Ohai hadn’t gotten injured, this may be a different choice, but it’s undeniable that the Dash are better with Lloyd on the field. Her first appearance was the last match of a six-game losing streak before kicking off a three-game (and counting) undefeated streak. She’s constantly involved in the attack and her through balls have created numerous chances, even if the Dash have a problem finishing. Whether through a timely interception, pinpoint-precise pass, assist, or shot, Lloyd is likely involved in any Dash scoring opportunity.

Runner up: Rachel Daly

Daly is tied as the team’s leading scorer and should claim that title outright soon.

NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE

Sam Mewis looks for a target during a match between the NC Courage and the Chicago Red Stars. (photo by Lewis Gettier)

Sam Mewis looks for a target during a match between the NC Courage and the Chicago Red Stars. (photo by Lewis Gettier)

Sam Mewis

Mewis has been a destroyer in central midfield, carrying over her good form from the national team. She is the Courage’s engine, delivering bone-crunching tackles to force turnovers before distributing the ball all over the pitch. Along with McCall Zerboni, Mewis controls any midfield she steps on, forcing opponents to the flank, where the Courage aren’t too shabby either. As she has evolved as a player, she’s added a layer to the Courage’s formerly one-dimensional attack. She also leads the team in assists.

Runner up: Debinha

The Brazilian has been a revelation for the Courage, bringing creativity to an offense based on athleticism.

ORLANDO PRIDE

Marta holds off Daphne Corboz. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Marta holds off Daphne Corboz. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Marta

Much like Lloyd, Marta simply makes the Pride better. Their attack picked up noticeable bite when she came on board, and she now leads the team in goals, shots, and shots on goal, and is tied for the most assists. She has been involved in nearly every Pride goal and often draws multiple defenders due to her ability to create something out of nothing, leading the league in chances created. One of the most hyped signings ever in the NWSL, she has more than delivered for Orlando.

Runner up: Ali Krieger

Whether on the flank or in central defense, Krieger is a stabilizing force for a shaky Pride defense and often appears to be covering two or more positions at once.

PORTLAND THORNS

Lindsey Horan, 7, in action during last year's wildly entertaining, scoreless draw when the Thorns visited the SoccerPlex (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Lindsey Horan, 7, in action during last year’s wildly entertaining, scoreless draw when the Thorns visited the SoccerPlex (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Lindsey Horan

The midfielder has made full use of the freedom to roam given to her by Mark Parsons, and the ebb and flow of the Thorns’ games can be measured by how involved she is. Horan’s playmaking skills have flourished this season, but she’s more than capable of going for goal herself, registering the second most shots on the team and the most of any midfielder. She has also drawn the most fouls in the league, setting up set pieces on which the Thorns can be so deadly.

Runner up: Hayley Raso

The Australian’s work rate has been undeniable, and she was finally rewarded for it with her first ever NWSL goal.

SEATTLE REIGN

Megan Rapinoe scored both goals in this weekend's 2-0 victory over Portland, putting her at the top of the table with nine goals on the season. (Photo: Seattle Reign FC)

Megan Rapinoe scored both goals in this weekend’s 2-0 victory over Portland, putting her at the top of the table with nine goals on the season. (Photo: Seattle Reign FC)

Megan Rapinoe

Likely tied as current front runner for league MVP with Marta, Rapinoe has reached a form that we’ve never seen from her before. Her relentless energy and constant pestering of backlines has her leading the league’s Golden Boot race, and she has over twice the goals of any of her teammates. When not going for goal, she’s also proven to any doubters that her crosses and set piece delivery are still on point.

Runner up: Haley Kopmeyer

Kopmeyer’s transition from backup to one of the best goalkeepers ever to the number one has been seamless, and she has the most saves in the league.

SKY BLUE FC

Sam Kerr earned Player of the Month honors with her stellar performance in June. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Sam Kerr earned Player of the Month honors with her stellar performance in June. (photo copyright Katie Cahalin for The Equalizer)

Sam Kerr

Many (myself among them) said before the season began that a full year of a healthy Sam Kerr would be a sight to behold, and so far she has more than met expectations. One of two players ever (Kim Little) in the NWSL to win Player of the Month in consecutive months, her form has to have her in the conversation for league MVP. The Australian’s off the ball movement is nearly unparalleled in the league, and her decision making has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years. She also is the only Sky Blue player to have over 20 shots on goal and has the most in the league.

Runner up: Kailen Sheridan

Making her case for Rookie of the Year, the Canadian international is the youngest and one of the calmest goalkeepers in the league, proving a stabilizing force behind an inexperienced and shaky defense.

WASHINGTON SPIRIT

Stephanie Labbe dives to stop Kealia Ohai from getting a shot off on goal. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Stephanie Labbe dives to stop Kealia Ohai from getting a shot off on goal. (photo copyright EriMac Photo for The Equalizer)

Stephanie Labbé

Sheridan’s Canadian teammate has risen to the challenge of stabilizing a team that went through a tumultuous offseason. She routinely produces highlight-worthy saves, demonstrating an excellent athleticism and ability to read that game. However, it’s her decision making regarding coming off her line that is the most improved part of her game and has taken her skills to another level.

Runner up: Francisca Ordega

At her best, Ordega is nearly impossible to defend, and she leads her team in both goals and assists.

{Read More: Any Way to Stop the ACL Injuries?}

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