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Six Thorns Among NWSL Award Nominees

Jan Landis/The Asian Reporter

The Portland Thorns have six nominations for the 2016 NWSL Awards, the NWSL announced Tuesday evening.

Mark Parsons (Coach of the Year), Emily Sonnett (Rookie of the Year), Michelle Betos (Goalkeeper of the Year), Emily Menges (Defender of the Year), Tobin Heath (MVP) and Allie Long (MVP) were among the nominations for the league's annual post-season awards.  Additionally, the Best XI will be voted on by a selection of fans, team personnel, players, and the media.

Fan voting is available at  Voting closes at 11:59 ET on September 29th.

Betos is the reigning Goalkeeeper of the Year, while Long and Betos were named to the Best XI in 2015 and Long to the Second XI in 2014, and Christine Sinclair was named to the Second XI in 2013.  Former Thorns Alex Morgan (Second XI, 2013), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Second XI, 2014), Vero (Best XI, 2014), Steph Catley (Second XI, 2014), and Jessica McDonald (Second XI, 2014) were all named to to the post-season first and second teams in previous seasons.

NWSL Press Release:


(Sept. 27, 2016) - The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced Tuesday the list of finalists for Most Valuable Player, Defender of the Year presented by Coppertone® from Bayer's Consumer Health Division, Goalkeeper of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Best XI.

In the final round of voting - owners, general managers, head coaches, players, media and fans will vote from now to Sept. 29 at 11:59 p.m. ET to determine the individual award winners as well as the 2016 NWSL Best XI.


2016 NWSL Awards - Finalists

Coach of the Year

Jim Gabarra - Washington Spirit
After joining the Spirit during the offseason, Jim Gabarra led the club to several milestones in his first year with the team after spending the previous three seasons with Sky Blue FC. Among them, the team earned a second place finish - its highest to date - and secured a home playoff match for the first time. Upon taking over the team, Gabarra worked to bolster the roster and enhance an already strong unit. The depth of the Spirit roster has been evident all season with Gabarra rotating the full roster through the starting lineup. The depth was further evident this summer as the side went 4-1-0 while the team's Olympians were in Brazil.

Mark Parsons - Portland Thorns FC
In his first season with the Thorns, Mark Parsons led the club to its first ever NWSL Shield after finishing with the best regular-season record (12-3-5, 41pts) as well as helping the team earn its first home postseason match. After joining the club from the Washington Spirit in the offseason, Parsons helped guide the Thorns in setting a new club record for the most wins (12) and points (41) in a single campaign - as well as finishing the season with the best home record (8-1-1) and tied for the best road record (4-2-4) in the league. In three seasons coaching in the NWSL, Parsons has a record of 30-18-6.

Paul Riley - Western New York Flash
Paul Riley enjoyed a successful first season with the Western New York Flash as he guided a group of young players that finished seventh last year to a fourth place finish this season and helped the club return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Riley came to the club after two seasons at the helm with Portland Thorns FC and turned Western New York into one of the best offenses in league history as the Flash led the league with 40 goals and became just the third team to average 2.00 goals per game in an NWSL season. In the process, the club set league records for the most goals scored over both a six-game span (19) and seven-game span (22).

Rookie of the Year

Rachel Daly - Houston Dash
Houston Dash coach Randy Waldrum described Rachel as "a steal" after picking up the former outside back with the No. 6 selection in the first round of the 2016 NWSL Draft. The St. John's University product finished with four goals and four assists over 16 appearances in her rookie season - which equates to a goal or assist every other game she played. The forward was also the sparkplug that snapped a six-game scoreless streak for the club as her strike in the 7th minute July 16 against Portland Thorns FC helped secured three points for the Dash. Daly's form caught the attention of England Women's National Team coach Mark Sampson, who recently called her up for EURO 2017 qualifying matches. Daly was the only NWSL player on the squad and her form continued with England as she scored in her debut.

Raquel Rodriguez - Sky Blue FC
After winning an NCAA College Cup and the Hermann Trophy at Penn State University, Sky Blue FC made Costa Rica international Raquel Rodriguez the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. Rodriguez immediately inserted herself into the Sky Blue FC Starting XI and her creativity in the midfield played a critical role in the success and tactical flow of the New Jersey club. On the season, she logged 1,461 minutes, making 17 starts over 18 appearances for Sky Blue FC while also spending some time away with the Costa Rica Women's National Team. Rodriguez registered 22 shots on the year, adding a goal and an assist to the offensive stat sheet.

Emily Sonnett - Portland Thorns FC
Defender Emily Sonnett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, put forth an impressive campaign in her first season as a professional. The Marietta, Ga. native started and played 90 minutes in all of her 15 appearances for Portland this season. She became the third rookie in team history to start in a Thorns FC home opener, logging 90 minutes in her NWSL and Thorns FC debut - a 2-1 win over the Orlando Pride at Providence Park on April 17. Additionally, Sonnett has earned 11 caps with the U.S. Women's National Team and was selected as an alternate for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Goalkeeper of the Year

Michelle Betos - Portland Thorns FC
The reigning NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, Michelle Betos enjoyed another fine season for Portland Thorns FC. The Flushing, N.Y. native finished the year with career highs in wins (9), goals against average (1.14) and shutouts (4). Her 50 saves on the season ranked fifth in the league, while she was tied for fifth in shutouts with four. Betos recorded a season-high six saves in a 1-0 shutout out victory over rivals Seattle Reign FC on July 30. Additionally, Betos picked up multiple 2016 Save of the Week honors (Week 1, Week 12, Week 13 and Week 15). Late in the season, Betos set a new Thorns FC record for the most saves in club history (104).

Ashlyn Harris - Orlando Pride
In Orlando Pride's first season, goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was one of the club's most consistent performers throughout the inaugural campaign. Despite missing five games due to U.S. Women's National Team duty, Harris finished the year second in saves (62) after facing 82 shots on goal, the third most in the league. Harris' efforts between the pipes did not go unnoticed, as she was awarded NWSL Save of the Week nine times, winning each time she was nominated. In the month of May, Harris led the Pride to three-straight shutout victories, allowing just two goals over the five games. She finished the year with a total of four clean sheets.

Alyssa Naeher - Chicago Red Stars
After being acquired by Chicago in the offseason, Alyssa Naeher started 13 games for the Red Stars and finished tied for first in NWSL with six clean sheets. A huge presence in the net for Chicago, Naeher earned NWSL Player of the Month honors for May after allowing one goal in four matches and posting three shutouts. Additionally, Naeher, along with the Red Stars back line, set a then NWSL record 485-minute shutout streak from April 16 to May 22. Chicago finished tied for the second fewest goals allowed this season.

Defender of the Year, presented by Coppertone

Lauren Barnes - Seattle Reign FC
A starter in all 20 matches for Seattle Reign FC, Lauren Barnes played 1,775 minutes this season - the second most among Defender of the Year nominees - and was a key part of the club's record-setting defense. Barnes helped Reign FC set two defensive league records: most consecutive clean sheets with five straight and most minutes without conceding a goal at 531 minutes. The defender found the back of the net this season, scoring a free kick goal in a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Red Stars on September 4th, and also provided two assists on the year.

Arin Gilliland - Chicago Red Stars
In just her second year in the league, Arin Gilliland joins a list of strong candidates - including teammate Julie Johnston - up for 2016 Defender of the Year. Along with Naeher, Johnston, and the Red Stars defense, Gilliland set a then NWSL record 485-minute shutout streak from April 16 to May 22. A strong, fast and instinctive defender, Gilliland has the talent to stop opposing team's strongest attackers while continuing to be an offensive threat for Chicago. She started all 20 matches and totaled two assists in 1,719 minutes for the Red Stars.

Julie Johnston - Chicago Red Stars
Julie Johnston stepped into a new role in 2016, leading a young back line and continuing to show why she is one of the best defenders in the NWSL. The Red Stars defense finished the season conceding just 20 goals, strong enough for the second fewest in league. With the help of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and the rest of the Red Stars defense, Johnston and company created a new NWSL record 485-minute shutout streak from April 16 to May 22. The U.S. international played every minute of the 12 games in which she appeared this season and was a driving force behind the Red Stars recording eight shutouts - tied for the league lead.

Emily Menges - Portland Thorns FC
Defender Emily Menges was the most familiar face on the field for the Thorns this season, as she was the only player to start all 20 games this season and play every minute of every single match. Menges was part of a Portland defense that enjoyed one of the best defensives seasons in NWSL history with a 0.95 goals against average as they became just the third team in league history to allow less than one goal per game (joining the 2013 Flash and 2014 Reign). In 20 games this season, Menges did not pick up a single yellow card and was a key factor in guiding the defense to allow a league-low 19 goals this season.

Becky Sauerbrunn - FC Kansas City
Becky Sauerbrunn continued to anchor the backfield of the two-time defending NWSL champions in their fourth season of play. With her help, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart tied for the league lead with six shutouts and the Blues ranked second with a 1.00 goals against average. Sauerbrunn - a three-time winner of the Defender of the Year award - started 14 of the team's 20 games and scored one goal, the second of her NWSL career.


Tobin Heath - Portland Thorns FC
Midfielder Tobin Heath enjoyed a historic 2016 campaign as she set a new NWSL record for the most assists in a single season (10) in 14 games played. Heath was instrumental in all offensive aspects for the club, as she led the team in assists, shots on goal (18) and corner kicks taken (61). The Basking Ridge, N.J. native was named the NWSL Player of the Month for the month of April and also picked up NWSL Player of the Week honors for Week 6. Heath was named to her third Olympic roster, starting and playing in three matches, while registering a pair of assists during the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 16 appearances for the U.S. Women's National Team in 2016, Heath has recorded four goals and seven assists.

Allie Long - Portland Thorns FC
Midfielder Allie Long's 2016 campaign proved to be another consistent season for Thorns FC. With her six goals scored in 2016, Long now has 28 career goals, which ranks third all-time during the NWSL regular season. Long tallied two braces on the season - the first in a 3-0 victory over the Houston Dash at Providence Park on Sept. 7, and the second in a 3-1 victory over Sky Blue FC on Sept. 25 to help Thorns FC capture their first-ever NWSL Shield. The career leader in games played (79) for Portland, Long appeared in all four matches for the USWNT during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Kealia Ohai - Houston Dash
The Houston Dash captain led a second half charge that saw the club finish with a 4-3-3 record after posting six consecutive defeats by identical 1-0 score lines. In that stretch, Ohai scored 11 goals to set a new club record and averaged a goal or assist every 69 minutes. Her form continued after the Olympic break as she scored five goals in the final six games. Ohai's leadership kept the team united as it maneuvered through a difficult season and built momentum for what should be a memorable 2017 season.

Christen Press - Chicago Red Stars
Despite missing matches due to the Olympics, Press led the league with the best goals-per-game average (0.57), finishing with eight goals. The Red Stars captain came up big throughout the season for her team, including notching three game-winning goals. A constant pressure on opponents' back lines, Press found numerous opportunities to shoot on frame - with 39 shots on goal, good enough for first in league.

Lynn Williams - Western New York Flash
Williams won the 2016 NWSL Golden Boot with 11 goals this season and added another 5 assists. The 23-year old speedster from Pepperdine University worked to better herself this offseason, and it showed on the field. Williams scored more than 25% of the Flash's goals this season and saw an increase of seven goals from her 2015 campaign. Williams scored against six of the nine other NWSL teams this season and was crucial in the Flash's success, creating opportunities for herself and her teammates while leading the team to an unexpected playoff berth.

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