FourFourTwo USA's 50 Best American Women's Players of 2017: No. 7, Christen Press
For both club and country in 2017, Christen Press was ever-present in the lineup and always dangerous in front of goal. Heading a Chicago Red Stars roster packed with U.S. women’s national team starters, Press was a consistent force, leading the team in minutes played for the first time and besting her own team record for goals (11) in a single season. She also worked her way up the league scoring chart, reaching 35 all-time NWSL goals scored, tied with Jessica McDonald and behind only Sam Kerr (43).
This was the first NWSL season which Press spent entirely with the Red Stars, with no midseason arrival or major international tournament impacting her availability. Since joining the team in June 2014, she’s always been the go-to player up top, but 2017 saw Press’ game become more multi-dimensional.
She tripled her NWSL career assist total and converted four penalty kicks, a career high. She combined brilliantly with late-season addition Yuki Nagasato to help clinch a third consecutive win over eventual NWSL Shield winners North Carolina, although once again the Red Stars fell one game short of the NWSL final, held scoreless by that very same team in the playoffs.
For the U.S., Press had a somewhat quiet year on the score sheet, but her offensive contributions seem to come at just the right time – the only goal in a tightly contested match versus Norway (one of just two road matches for the team), the fierce upper-90 strike versus Brazil to launch the Americans’ historic 4-3 comeback win in the Tournament of Nations, and an assist on Alex Morgan’s game-winning goal against Canada in the final match of 2017.
Press was one of just three players to feature in every U.S. game this year, starting half of them. She’s likely to be the next American to reach 100 caps, and she’s not far away from scoring her 50th goal, a milestone only 10 U.S. women’s players have reached. But it’s still unclear where and how head coach Jill Ellis plans to use Press as Women’s World Cup qualifying approaches. Is Press a starter or sub? A forward or a winger? The challenge, as it has long been, may just stem from the fact that Christen Press just has too much to offer.