FourFourTwo USA's 50 Best American Women's Players of 2017: 30-21
30. Meghan Klingenberg
Meghan Klingenberg did not have the U.S. women’s national team to worry about for most of 2017. The result was her finest NWSL season to date, which ended with her hands on the championship trophy and her name in the mouths of legions of U.S. fans who clamor for her return.
Appearing in all but one Portland Thorns match on her preferred left flank, Klingenberg was her usual aggressive self going forward and delivering crosses. She ended the season with six assists to lead the Thorns and tie for second in NWSL, behind only Nahomi Kawasumi.
The upgrade in Klingenberg’s game in 2017: She was rarely caught out of position or too high up the pitch. With Klingenberg a mainstay on the left, the Thorns conceded only 20 goals across 24 regular-season matches and blanked the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL Championship.
– Dan Lauletta
29. Sofia Huerta
Huerta might be the player on this countdown who, at the start of 2017, seemed least likely to be here. But that perhaps says more about our perspective on the American pool than it does about Huerta, the player, who has shown year-over-year growth since entering the NWSL in 2015.
Huerta described to FourFourTwo in detail in July that she has always felt American, despite playing four times for the senior Mexican national team. Since December 2014, Huerta has been committed to getting back on the U.S. program’s radar after playing for the U-20s.
Her first two seasons in the NWSL showed her promise in an attacking role, and Huerta in 2017 showed off her versatility. The 24-year-old played across all three lines for the Chicago Red Stars, and in September earned her first cap for the U.S. – after FIFA approved her one-time change of national association – as a fullback, a position head coach Jill Ellis has increasingly seen fit for attack-first players.
Huerta has the technical and athletic abilities required for each side of the ball, and she is suddenly very much in the conversation for the 2019 World Cup – for the U.S., of course. That was always the plan.
- Jeff Kassouf
28. Ashlyn Harris
This was a tough season for Ashlyn Harris, interrupted as it was by a bad non-contact quad injury suffered during a game against the Seattle Reign in May. The injury took over two months to rehab, with another handful of games needed to completely re-adjust.
But once she did, Harris looked like she had never been gone. That’s not to say she was perfect; Harris is still sometimes a big-risk/big-reward goalkeeper whose positioning can get her into trouble, as it did in Orlando’s 4-1 loss to Portland in the playoff semifinals. But Harris, as always, is also capable of enormous saves.
In a season when she missed almost a dozen NWSL games as well as some U.S. women’s national team friendlies, her mental fortitude to regain fitness was evident, especially returning later in the season, when the race for playoffs was in much sharper relief and points grew more and more critical. Still, her position at 28 on this list reflects a good-not-great year for a goalkeeper, as well as the increasing competition in the American ‘keepers pool.
– Steph Yang
27. Vanessa DiBernardo
Vanessa DiBernardo has been one of NWSL’s most consistent players since entering the league in 2014. In both 2015 and 2016, she finished tied for second in the league in assists, and last year earned second-team NWSL Best XI honors for her efforts.
Frequently tabbed as one of the America’s most underrated and underappreciated talents, the Chicago Red Stars midfielder ranks among the nation’s best pure possession players. Comfortable with her back to pressure and unfazed in tight spaces, she began 2017 abroad, helping Perth Glory to the W-League Grand Final in February.
Returning to Chicago, DiBernardo once again proved to be one of the Red Stars’ most reliable players, logging the bulk of her minutes as the team’s No. 10. She finished the year with three goals and two assists in league play, including NWSL Goal of the Week honors in June.
Although she did miss four matches with a late-season concussion, DiBernardo still managed to earn 21 starts in total and helped Chicago to its third straight playoff appearance.
– John Halloran
26. Morgan Brian
If you think this is an absurdly low ranking for one of the United States’ best midfielders, your opinion isn’t without reason.
Brian has long been the future of the U.S. women’s national team, and that became obvious to the greater world at the 2015 World Cup, where she played an important role in the Americans’ mid-tournament turnaround on the way to a third title.
But in the time since then, Brian has battled numerous injuries and faced increased competition in the middle of the park for a United States team which continues to tinker with is system. The Houston Dash’s ongoing struggles didn’t help, and a late-season trade to Chicago was a needed change of scenery cut short by injury.
Brian is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders in the U.S. pool, and recent rumors of a looming deal to move to European power Lyon confirm that she is very much in demand. As with several players on our list, injuries were a part of balancing our rankings between what we know and the year that was. A healthy Brian will climb significantly in next year’s rankings.
- Jeff Kassouf