If you ask any soccer supporter what words come to mind when they think of the start of soccer campaign one of the first words you will always here is new. New coach, new philosophy, new opportunities, new stadium, new kits, and of course stars. This year, the National Women’s Soccer League is teeming with young, exciting talent. Although many of these players may not make the final rosters for Canada and the United States the future is still very, very bright. So who are ten best to keep an eye on? Our Sean Maslin has the full breakdown.
10.) DEF Bianca St. Georges (23, Chicago Red Stars/CANWNT)
St. Georges had a solid 2020 in the Challenge Cup and Fall Series with the Red Stars, earning a start spot along a very heavy veteran team. That’s an incredible testament to her skills as a defender and her potential going forward. With many of the Red Stars veterans heading off to Tokyo this summer she should have plenty of opportunities to show what she can do for both club and country going forward.
9.) FWD Imani Dorsey (25, NJ/NY Gotham FC/USWNT)
The 2018 NWSL Rookie of the Year finally seems to be getting an opportunity with the USWNT, having earned call-ups in October and in December. The 2018 NWSL Rookie of the Year has been a key cog in Gotham FC (formerly Sky Blue FC)’s rise from the bottom of the league to potential playoff side. Her ability to play both sides of the pitch and her precision passing in traffic make her one of the most difficult players to defend in the league. If she can continue to work on her finishing then more call-ups may be coming.
8.) GK Kailen Sheridan (25, NJ/NY Gotham FC/CANWNT)
While Sheridan has been a part of the CANWNT goalkeeper fold for five years she only has five caps, stuck behind two legends in Stephanie Labbe and Erin McLeod. But with Labbe at 34 and McLeod at 38 a change will be happening sooner rather than later. Sheridan has made a name for herself for her highlight reel saves and for coming up in big matches for Gotham (including a penalty kick stop in their Challenge Cup Quarterfinal match against the Washington Spirit). Gotham seems primed for a playoff run this year and if they do make it will be because of Sheridan’s work between the posts.
7.) FWD Ashley Sanchez (22, Washington Spirit/USWNT)
One of the areas that the USWNT will be looking to rebuild after the Tokyo Olympics is the forward position. Sanchez, the Spirit’s first round pick in 2020, is certainly in the mix and has had a strong start to her 2021 campaign. What will be interesting to see is how playing on the wing for the Spirit will positively or negatively impact her performance. Judging by her game-winning goal in the Spirit’s home opener against Racing Louisville the answer at least for now seems to be quite well.
TIED – 6.) FWD Sophia Smith (20, Portland Thorns FC/USWNT) and Morgan Weaver (23, Portland Thorns FC/ USWNT)
Smith and Weaver were both drafted in the same year and pretty close to one another in the standings so it seems to make sense that the two forwards would be paired together. They do serve different functions within coach Mark Parsons system with Smith working as a traditional center forwards and Weaver typically playing wide. With Christine Sinclair out due to CANWNT duty that should give the dup a real chance to prove that they can be dependable scorers going forward.
4.) MID Andi Sullivan (25, Washington Spirit/USWNT)
Andi came very, very close to making the 2019 World Cup squad and the Olympic Qualifying squad, just missing the cut on both occasions. Rather than letting it get to her, Sullivan has used the opportunity to become a leader on the field for the Spirit and become one of the top midfielders in the league. While there is still a logjam in the midfield for the US that should be opening up soon. If Sullivan can get the Spirit to the NWSL Championship then a starting spot in the USWNT XI may be hers for the taking.
3.) DEF Emily Fox (22, Racing Louisville/ USWNT)
The number one overall pick in January’s NWSL Draft, Fox has immediately made an impact in both the league and for the USWNT. Her expert tracking and decisive tackles has helped the expansion Racing side stay in games so early in their season. Furthermore, she seems willing to help run the counter-attacking, something that the USWNT have lacked for years. Although she is still very young, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski include her in the 18 for Tokyo for experience purposes.
2.) MID Victoria Pickett (24, FC Kansas City/CANWNT)
Pickett’s passing and ability to maintain possession under tight conditions have helped her rise through the ranks in the Canadian youth system. Despite a knee injury, she was one of the top midfielders in college soccer the last four years at the University of Wisconsin. While FC KC is a rebuilding project, she will be getting plenty of minutes and have the chance to play alongside CANWNT veterans Desiree Scott and Diana Matheson. Those factors should lead to a great 2021 for the yonder midfielder.
- FWD Trinity Rodman (18, Washington Spirit/USWNT)
While she wasn’t the first overall pick in the NWSL Draft, she end up being the most important. At 18, she is the youngest player in the league but based off her tenacity on the attack and fearlessness at taking her shot that may not matter. She plays like someone who has no fear and can make decisions that only seasoned veterans would know how to handle. With the Spirit she is going to get plenty of minutes, most certainly as a starter. If she continues to play well this spring and summer she may very well force her way onto the USWNT Olympic roster.