FourFourTwo's USWNT Top 50: 40-31
36. Kristen Edmonds
If we were to hand out a “breakout player” award for 2016, Kristen Edmonds would win it. When Orlando acquired the versatile midfielder, the club had no idea it was about to get its leading goal-scorer and leader in minutes played for 2016. Edmonds was an add-on to a trade that brought Becky Edwards to the Pride. In the end, Edmonds was the big piece that moved.
“One of our projects for next year is to try and find more of those Kristen Edmonds players in the league.”
The 29-year-old had the best season of her professional career, scoring six goals – several of them spectacular – and adding two assists. She’s dynamic and possesses technique on the ball both in open play and on set pieces. It earned her a U.S. call-up by year’s end. She shone as an attacking midfielder for Orlando, but she can play on the flank, up top or even at outside back, if needed.
Pride head coach Tom Sermanni summed it up best at the end of the season, saying, “One of our projects for next year is to try and find more of those Kristen Edmonds players in the league.”
-- Jeff Kassouf
35. Arin Gilliland
The rise of the Chicago Red Stars over the past two seasons was punctuated by the 2015 draft, when they added the trio of Arin Gilliland, Danielle Colaprico, and Sofia Huerta in the span of four picks. First among them was Gilliland at No. 8, a speedy outside back who can play on either side. In two seasons she has missed only one game.
Gilliland’s most notable characteristic on the field is the amount of time she spends in the attacking third. But she rarely gets caught out of position on counterattacks, something owed to both her speed and her soccer sense. In her two seasons in the Windy City, the Red Stars have barely given up more than a goal per game.
The U.S. came calling in October, although Gilliland has yet to dress for a senior national team match. Head coach Jill Ellis is looking for attacking outside backs, though, which makes Gilliland, set to turn 24 on Christmas Day, a prime candidate to get into the mix.
-- Dan Lauletta
34. Beverly Yanez
Beverly Yanez is often forgotten when listing American players who took a chance abroad and returned as exponentially better, but she is one of the prime examples.
Yanez made lemonade from a whole bag full of lemons in 2012. WPS had just folded after her rookie season, which saw her play mainly a reserve role on a world-beating Western New York Flash team that won the title. She showed potential, but her skills were raw. Sky Blue FC had already booked a preseason trip to Japan in 2012 when WPS folded, so the club brought over a collection of suddenly-out-of-work players. While still in Japan, Yanez was offered a contract on the spot by league powerhouse INAC Kobe Leonessa, and she accepted.
She returned to Seattle on loan in 2014 and then permanently in 2015 as a dangerous forward with a nose for goal. Although Seattle’s form dipped in 2016, Yanez displayed further nuances to her game as she was asked to fill in at center mid at times due to injuries.
At 28 years old, her window for a senior U.S. call up may have passed, but Yanez is one of the more underappreciated players in the NWSL.
-- Jeff Kassouf