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My ballot for FIFA women’s player, coach awards

Carli Lloyd is the 2015 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Carli Lloyd is the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. (Photo Copyright Erica McCaulley for The Equalizer)

Carli Lloyd is now officially the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year her United States national team coach, Jill Ellis is the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year. Lloyd and Ellis won the awards on Monday in Zurich, Switzerland.

Both Lloyd and Ellis won their respective awards pretty easily as voting is concerned.

Each FIFA-recognized country’s national team captain and coach gets a vote and many countries also have a media vote, with each vote counting equally. Lloyd took over 35 percent of the votes, with second-place Célia Šašić claiming only about 12 percent. Ellis earned a commanding 43 percent of the vote. Vote-by-vote breakdowns can be found here for the player award and here for the coach award.

For the third consecutive year, I had the honor of holding the United States media vote for the women’s player and coach award.  All votes are shared publicly by FIFA and each year I like to provide some reasoning as to why I voted the way I did. This year, I voted for both winners. Here were my official ballots:

2015 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year
1. Carli Lloyd (USA/Houston Dash)
2. Amandine Henry (France/Lyon)
3. Célia Šašić (Germany/FFC Frankfurt)

2015 FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year
1. Jill Ellis (USA)
2. Mark Sampson (England)
3. Colin Bell (previously Frankfurt)

One of the glaring differences between the men’s and women’s player awards is the closed nature of the women’s award. A FIFA committee selects 10 shortlisted players and only those 10 can be voted for. Last year, Seattle Reign and Scotland midfielder Kim Little would have been somewhere in my top three if I were allowed to write in a name, but I couldn’t. This year, I would have put U.S. defender Becky Sauerbunn in my top three if I could write in a name, but alas, I couldn’t.

[SOURCES: Tampa, Nashville, Boca Raton to host US-France-Germany-England in March]

Lloyd proved this year why she is great. Yes, she staked that claim to most over the course of three spectacular games after a slow start at the World Cup. But she also carried that over in the months following, scoring for the Houston Dash and briefly giving that club playoff hopes. Three of her four goals for Houston this season were game-winners, including two in a four-day span as part of her seven-game scoring streak in all competitions. Lloyd led the U.S. by nearly double any other teammate with 18 goals in 2015. She’s a midfielder with forward instincts.

Henry was one of the most impressive players at the World Cup (winning the Silver Ball) and will be a joy to watch in the NWSL if she an Portland Thorns FC finalize a deal. She’s a rare bread of a two-way midfielder who does the dirty work but can also score flashy goals, and the future remains bright for her and France.

Šašić is the reigning European player of the year and UEFA Champions League title-holder. I’ve stressed in past years that club form needs to be taken into account more, but she also only played for half of the year, retiring in July after the World Cup. (Šašić revealed on Monday that she is pregnant.)

As for the coaching award, it wasn’t an easy choice. I genuinely feel that both Ellis and Sampson were both deserving in their own rights.

Nobody, including myself, thought England would finish third at the World Cup and be one horribly cruel own goal away from making it to the World Cup final.  Nobody. In November 2014, England got run off the pitch at Wembley by Germany. Sampson’s side looked flat-out awful. They looked less than inspiring against the U.S. last February and looked poor against France in a World Cup-opening loss.

But Sampson kept the faith, and his management of the Laura Bassett situation — effusively but borderline superfluously standing behind his player — is something no follower of the women’s game will forget.  He deserves recognition, and while he didn’t win an award on Monday, he did get a contract extension through the 2019 World Cup.

As for Ellis, she deserves credit for the United States’ mid-World Cup turnaround (just as Lloyd does), just as she deserved criticism for the team’s struggles earlier in the tournament and early in the year, when some experiments (like Lloyd as a winger) had no business being tried.

Many will point to the fact that Ellis was forced to make changes in that defining quarterfinal victory over China due to the suspensions of Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday. But that is a discredit to Ellis, who still had to pick the personnel (Kelley O’Hara and Amy Rodriguez providing the spark in rare starts for each) and the system (you know, letting Lloyd run free up top and having Morgan Brian play clean-up duty) to make things work.

Ellis took a lot of heat from the press from January through mid-June (she always says she doesn’t read what’s out there — good or bad — for what it’s worth). But coaches have to be judged on their ability to adapt to situations and know which buttons to push. She did exactly that in the final stages of the World Cup and she’s been rolling with it ever since, bringing in a recent crop of young players to really inject some competition into the U.S. team which is turning the page on a new generation. Ellis got it right again last week in naming Lloyd and Sauerbrunn captains. Don’t forget that she smoothly handled the benching of the world’s all-time goal-scorer, Abby Wambach, in the middle of the World Cup. That could have gone very differently.

I have little to argue against Sampson’s case to win the award. Both he and Ellis shone in the latter half of 2015, the only difference being that Ellis won on the final day of the tournament and Sampson on the penultimate day.


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