[Updated 3:05 pm with quotations]
It’s official: for the first time in the NWSL’s history, the MVP award isn’t simply going to the Golden Boot winner, but to the actual best player in the league right now, Lindsey Horan.
“Obviously it’s a huge honor for me,” said Horan at the press conference today. “I think this year has been incredible for our team. It’s been a rollercoaster ride... I think, credit to my team and what they’ve done this year to get us to this point.”
It’s hard to overstate how good Horan has been this season, and how important she has been to a Thorns team about to play for their second consecutive championship. She’s been one of Portland’s biggest goalscoring threats—her propensity for scoring on set pieces has become something of a meme at this point. Her 14 goals on the season are good for joint-second in the league, after Sam Kerr and tied with Lynn Williams. Even if all she did was score goals, she’d have had a decent case for this award.
But she doesn’t just score goals.
As a player, Horan is defined by an apparent ability to be everywhere at once. She will often force a turnover deep in midfield, pass the ball off to a teammate, and then reemerge 10 or 15 seconds later in the exact spot she needs to be in order to make the final pass or score one herself. She has just about everything: technical skill, strength, aerial ability, excellent passing accuracy. More than any of that, though, she always seems to be reading the game several steps ahead of everyone else, seeming to be everywhere because she can always tell where the game is going.
“I’ve said it a few times now,” said Mark Parsons. “I think she’s the only one capable of having the impact across so many different areas, on and off the ball. Offensive, defensive side this season... She’s an incredible player, but more important an incredible person that has a mentality that just wants to improve all the time.”
Horan was equally effusive in her praise for Parsons.
“What Mark’s done for me this year, in the [last] season, in the first season, has been incredible,” said Horan. “The player-coach relationship on and off the field is so important to me and the confidence that he’s instilled in me has been remarkable, and I thank him so much for that... It hasn’t all been rainbows and butterflies for me throughout the last two seasons... He’s stood by me every single day and pushed me harder and harder every single day. We’ve been through a long journey together and we hope it continues tomorrow.”