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The midfield magician: How Rose Lavelle continues to stun and cut opponents

© Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The OL Reign lost the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League Championship game to Gotham FC, so Rose Lavelle’s display could not be described as a match-winning performance. It was, however, a match-stealing performance. There was a back-heel, a deft chip, an outside-the-boot pass, all to cut open Gotham’s defense. There were shoulder drops, hip swerves, sudden accelerations of tempo or changes of direction, all to leave her markers dumbfounded. 

This was classic Lavelle. And this was a one-woman rampage against modern soccer.

Numbers matter now more than ever. There was a time, not so long ago, when those who counted the actions performed during soccer games were branded as outsiders. These were strange folk who did not belong in a sport that hated thinking, and they had to fight to prove their worth. Eventually, they did. Now, fairly and squarely, data analysis is inside soccer. And yet, data doesn’t tell the whole story, particularly when we talk about a player like Lavelle.

This has been a tough year for the 28-year-old, in many ways mirroring her career as a whole. She endured spells out with injury either side of the World Cup, limiting her to four NWSL regular season appearances, one assist, zero goals. Still, she was pivotal to the Reign’s chances in the postseason, all but defining the Championship game. The numbers are reductive. Lavelle can unlock games, and get fans out of their seats. Watching her is a feeling, not a fact or figure.

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