The nominees for US Soccer's Female Player of the Year are out. The five players nominated are:
Most oddsmakers would probably tell you that Lloyd is all but a lock for the award. She's nominated for the Ballon d'Or, she won the Golden Ball and the Silver Boot at the World Cup, she was nominated for a Puskas Award and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, and she does commercials now.
But the person who deserves this player of the year award has hardly any plaudits to her name, perhaps by the nature of a job that is harder to quantify without stats like goals or shots. Sauerbrunn is, perhaps, the best central defender in the world, and she should win Female Player of the Year.
But the World Cup! Lloyd's hat trick! I tell you, Sauerbrunn had an amazing World Cup too, even if it wasn't nearly as flashy, and much of the United States' run to the final can be placed squarely on her shoulders.
It's no secret the USWNT struggled through group stage, unable to find the back of the net after that 3-1 opener against Australia. It was only until quarterfinals against China PR, after Rapinoe and Holiday were forced to sit due to card accumulation, that the team began to look like it deserved to win. Lloyd was not consistently good throughout the entire tournament - she was like a complicated piece of machinery that needed time to spool up, finally reaching her max RPMs in the last few games.
The US defense kept the team in it until then. When the US was only able to muster two shots on goal against Sweden, the defense kept Sweden to zero shots on goal. In fact, except Australia and Japan, no team managed more than two SOG against the US. Germany? Number two, technical and tactical, nipping-at-the-US'-heels Germany? They managed one SOG in the World Cup semifinal.
Sauerbrunn also helped guide club FC Kansas City to its second NWSL championship in a row; her work with that defense helped limit the Seattle Reign to three SOG.
But if you want flashy, take a look at her blocks. How many times has Sauerbrunn cleaned up a mess with a well-timed block? This sort of stuff is why you want her to be the last person between the other team and the goalkeeper.
And let's not forget this how-did-that-not-deflect-in clearance that even Saerbrunn herself doesn't seem to know how she pulled off.
The real problem is so much of Sauerbrunn's work is decidedly not flashy by design, yet it is utterly vital. It's hard to quantify what she does with her soccer intelligence, which is position herself well to force the play in a disadvantageous direction or cut off a passing lane. With good positioning she doesn't need to block or come in with the hard tackle or make a goal-line save. She forces other players to do her bidding by narrowing down their options, which doesn't sound terribly exciting unless you want to phrase it as a form of Jedi mind trick, in which case absolutely go ahead and classify Becky Sauerbrunn as a Jedi. This isn't the goal you're looking for.
Sauerbrunn was notoriously snubbed from the FIFA Technical Study Group's World Cup All-Star Team, as well as the Dream Team elected by fans. An award now from US Soccer might not be all that she deserves in the way of recognition, but it certainly wouldn't be bad. And it's not as though fans in America aren't aware of her work, with her having won NWSL Defender of the Year three times in a row. US Soccer should definitely know all of this, and should be seriously weighing it against that World Cup hat trick.
Voting for the award is done by WNT coaches and staff, players who earned a cap in 2015, members of the USSF Board of Directors, U.S. Soccer's Athlete Council, NWSL coaches, and certain college coaches and media members. Do the right thing, voters. Becky Sauerbrunn for president.
I mean Female Player of the Year. (But if you can make the president thing happen, that would probably be good too.)
Results will be announced on Wednesday, December 16, during pre-game in New Orleans.