There are a few players on the United States Women’s National Team who have the ability to play in a style that makes people gravitate toward them. You see them play with flair, with creativity, or other attributes when they are on the ball. However, when you look at the defensive side of the ball, one player that is fast becoming one of the most important players on the USWNT is Naomi Girma, and it’s simply because she’s become one of the most dependable players on the team.
Playing college for the Stanford Cardinal, Girma has been leading and winning since her youth days. She won a College Cup with Stanford and served as their captain, leading with a calm demeanor that was also reflected in her approach to the game. But on top of that, she was one of the best defenders in the country, frustrating opponents by simply being in the right places and exhibiting incredible technical skill as she sought to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
When the San Diego Wave selected Naomi Girma with the first pick of the 2022 NWSL Draft, she didn’t take long to show that she belonged on this stage. She was on the May and June 2022 NWSL Best XI of the Month, and she was Rookie of the Month in June 2022. She wasn’t just good for a rookie. She was terrific as a player. In addition to winning NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2022, Girma also won NWSL Defender of the Year. She was the first player ever to win both awards in a single year.
She had received a few call-ups in the past to the USWNT, but she made her debut appearance for the senior national team in April 2022, and she has quickly become one of the best defenders on the team. The calmness that she brings to the field almost makes it where you forget she’s even in the game. That’s because she’s steadily and consistently going about her business, making sure that the defensive unit is organized and playing together. When you see the USWNT rack up clean sheet after clean sheet, you realize that Girma’s technical skill and her ability to do a lot so that others are freed to move forward are some of the reasons why they continue to end games with the other team failing to score.
Many players on the team have commented on how Girma is such a natural leader. Many fans see her as a future captain of the USWNT, and for good reason. You almost never have to worry about a defense that has Girma as a part of the unit, and the leadership she’s already demonstrated, even as someone with just over a year’s experience on the USWNT, gives players, coaches, and fans a sense of relief. The only people who need to worry are the opposing attackers who know they are going to have a long day going up against the brick wall that is Girma’s defense.
Entering her first Women’s World Cup, Girma’s ready to take on even more responsibility and be the steady pulse of the American defense. If the USWNT are to win a fifth title, it’ll be in no small part due to Girma putting the defense on her shoulders while at the same time uplifting the spirit of a nation. She’s ready for her moment, and Girma is about to become a worldwide standard for defensive excellence.