Why Lindsey Horan — Not Carli Lloyd — Was The Obvious Choice For USWNT Player Of The Year

Carli Lloyd passed the torch to Lindsey Horan this year. Lloyd, who won two Women’s World Cups wearing the vaunted No. 10 jersey, bequeathed the number to Horan after retiring. On Thursday night, it was Horan who honored the jersey by being named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. 

Also Thursday night, Trinity Rodman was named U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, an easy choice after helping the Washington Spirit to an NWSL title and being named NWSL Rookie of the Year. Oh, and there was an NWSL expansion draft Thursday night that saw a one USWNT player change clubs — twice. 

Carli Lloyd retired this year after a lengthy career that included twice being named the world player of the year by FIFA. Lloyd wore the USWNT No. 10 shirt for nearly 14 years, following legends like Aly Wagner and Michelle Akers. After her final match, Horan took over the No. 10 jersey and immediately scored in her first match wearing the shirt

Both Lloyd and Horan were in the running for USWNT Player of the Year, but in the end Horan was the obvious choice. While Lloyd could have been honored for career achievement or padding stats against hapless Paraguay, there was no better player for the U.S. than Horan, who is vital in both attack and defense.

A native of Golden, Colorado, Horan’s influence can’t be derived solely from goals scored — six for the USWNT, four for the Portland Thorns in 2021. Horan dominates any midfield she’s in, winning possession, helping build out of the back and finishing attacking moves with one of the strongest headers in the game. Few players can hold off defenders better than Horan, few players make better late-arriving runs into the box than Horan. 

“Her work ethic in the midfield and her mentality to continue to evolve as a player is inspiring,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Her ability to control the tempo of a game at the highest levels is world class, as is her ability to win balls in the midfield and help create goals in the attack.”

What sets Horan apart from Lloyd is her ability to win at the club level. Lloyd’s only club trophy of her career was the 2017 FA Women’s Cup with Manchester City; Horan already has six club trophies, including three in 2021 — NWSL Shield, NWSL Challenge Cup and Women’s International Champions Cup. 

Lloyd, a two-time winner of the award, finished second in the voting with 29 percent of the tally, not far behind Horan’s 36 percent. Rose Lavelle finished third with 19 percent. Megan Rapinoe and Alyssa Naeher were also nominated.

The voting for U.S. Young Female Player of the Year was a bit more straightforward. Rodman garnered 48 percent of the vote, easily outpacing Catarina Macario (32%) and Emily Fox (13%). 

While Macario has been stellar for both the U.S. and Lyon, what Rodman has done in her first year as a professional — as a 19-year-old — is nothing short of remarkable. The youngest player drafted in NWSL history (though youngest player ever goes to Olivia Moultrie, who had to sue for the right to play), Rodman led the league with seven assists. Her seven goals were eighth best in the NWSL. 

“To see my name alongside the list of amazing players who have won this award in the past is unbelievable,” Rodman said. “It’s an honor to receive this award from U.S. Soccer and our amazing fanbase. This year was a journey for me both mentally and physically as I settled into my new life as a professional. I want to thank my family, teammates, coaching and medical staffs for everything they have done for me on and off the field. It truly takes a village. I am so incredibly proud of what my Spirit teammates and I accomplished this season, and I would be humbled to get an opportunity to play for the U.S. again and represent our country in 2022.”

The daughter of Dennis Rodman was invited to join the USWNT to potentially receive her first senior caps during the November trip to Australia, but she declined (for potential reasons that could harm her future career with the national team). 

One player who was on that trip to Australia — she couldn’t miss a chance to see her partner, pitch-invader thwarter Sam Kerr of the Matildas — twice changed teams Thursday night during the NWSL expansion draft. 

As Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC pilfered opposing NWSL clubs for talent, Kristie Mewis was the biggest name taken. The Wave took Houston Dash’s only marketable player in addition to Kristen McNabb and Kaleigh Riehl. Angel City drafted Dani Weatherholt, Claire Emslie, Jasmyne Spencer and Paige Nielsen.

Not long after the expansion draft, San Diego announced it had shipped Kristie Mewis — sister of 2020 USWNT Player of the Year Sam — to Gotham FC.

In one more major bit of NWSL trade news, Alex Morgan was officially announced as a member of the San Diego Wave. You may remember we reported on the move on Monday, but the trade couldn’t actually go through because the trade window had closed. That didn’t stop San Diego from tweeting about it — Meg Linehan already wrote about it, what were they supposed to do? — but the NWSL made it official on Thursday night as the trade window reopened after the expansion draft. 

There’s sure to be more big NWSL news in the coming days and weeks as the NWSL college draft is on Saturday. Additionally, U.S. Soccer will announce the USMNT player and young player of the year awards on Friday night. These awards follow the USWNT Goal of the Year — Christen Press, though Rapinoe deserved it — and USMNT Goal of the Year — Sergiño Dest, and he totally deserved it — which were announced earlier this week.

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