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Six players who could define the NWSL playoffs

Photos: © Troy Wayrynen, Jonathan Jones and Stephen Brashear (All: USA TODAY Sports)

The National Women’s Soccer League playoffs get underway this weekend, the OL Reign welcoming Angel City before the North Carolina Courage take on Gotham FC. The winners of those games will meet the San Diego Wave and Portland Thorns, respectively. Now is the time for the game-changers to step up.

Here we reveal the six players we think could make a significant difference for their teams, and why they can potentially define the postseason.

San Diego Wave: Jaedyn Shaw

In her first full season with the San Diego Wave, Shaw has established herself as an important piece of Casey Stoney’s attacking puzzle. The 18-year-old has found the net six times and set up three goals for her colleagues, making her the team’s second-highest contributor behind Alex Morgan. After gaining experience in different roles, she also appears to be nailing down her spot in attacking midfield, with Stoney going so far as to trial Taylor Kornieck — previously the Wave’s starting No.10 — in a deeper position recently.

Regardless of where she plays, Shaw brings something different to San Diego’s play. She’s one of the most well-rounded young players to emerge in the NWSL of late, combining clever movement and quick feet with wonderful poise and decisive passing. The timing and precision of her final ball is exceptional. “There [aren’t] many players that can pick a through ball… with the quality that she can,” Stoney said, after a Shaw assist downed Gotham FC earlier this season.

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