FourFourTwo's USWNT Top 50: 50-41
44. Adrianna Franch
It’s strange to see a NWSL back-up goalkeeper on this list, particularly when the person who starts for her club isn’t in our Top 50, but there is a reason why Arianna Franch continues to get called into U.S. national team camps. When it comes to ability, Franch has never had a problem.
The problem for the Oklahoma State product has been health. After a stellar professional debut with Western New York in 2013, a knee injury sidelined the then-23-year-old for her second pro season. Come 2015, she was in Norway, working her way back to the level that made her seem like a national team heir apparent two years before.
She’s not back there yet, but during the time she was on the field for Portland last season, it’s clear she still has the talent to be the best `keeper in the national team pool. Then again, health kept her from locking down a starting position with her new club.
Now, in her second season back stateside, it’s a matter of not only staying healthy enough to not unseat Michelle Betos in Portland, but potentially shake up Jill Ellis’ goalkeeping pecking order.
-- Richard Farley
43. Tori Huster
Only one Washington Spirit player who was not part of the club’s original roster remains with the team. The 9th pick in the 2013 Supplemental Draft, Huster has been a mainstay at the Maryland SoccerPlex as the team has gone from laughingstock to the brink of both the Shield and NWSL Championship.
Huster’s 79 regular-season appearances are the most in Spirit history, and with her health intact after a dodgy 2015, she formed one-third of what was at times the best midfield in NWSL. Never a flashy player, Huster is at her best sitting deep enough in midfield that she is rarely noticed save for her easily spotted red hair. Her work rate though, and ability to find teammates to keep possession in her team’s favor, were big reasons the Spirit spent 2016 near the top of the table.
With the Spirit in transition, Huster’s role in the team could become even more vital over the next few seasons.
-- Dan Lauletta
42. Shea Groom
There may be no player more polarizing in the national team pool than Shea Groom. In a group that includes Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe, that’s saying something, but the questions around Groom come down to something more basic: Is there an inherently right way to play the game?
However you answer that question, Groom challenges it. She is somebody that comes as close to running through walls as anybody in women’s soccer. Unfortunately, opposing players are often the proxy for walls, leaving many to level criticism at the Texas A&M product as she pushes her effort to the edge of the rules.
She’s the player you love to play with and hate to play against, but after her second professional season, she’s also somebody that’s becoming increasingly productive. Handed the starting striker position in the wake of Amy Rodriguez’s pregnancy (and, subsequently, Sydney Leroux’s pregnancy), Groom posted eight goals in 19 appearances. In front of a midfield that had lost Lauren Holiday, that was enough to earn her a look from Jill Ellis.
-- Richard Farley
41. Sarah Killion
The No. 1 picks in the NWSL College Draft may get all the attention, but the No. 2s have proven to be solid bets as well. In 2015, playmaking midfielder Sarah Killion was the 2nd overall pick, and she has been a commanding though often obscure presence for Sky Blue in the last two NWSL seasons.
Killion has won championships in college (with UCLA in 2013) and at the U-20 Women’s World Cup (2012), and she helped Sky Blue become a playoff contender in 2016. Her competitive drive and technical ability are just a few reasons that she earned team MVP honors for the New Jersey club this year.
Killion was one of several young players to get her first U.S. call-up from Tom Sermanni, but since his departure in 2014, Killion hasn’t had a chance to prove herself with the senior team. With the advent of Jill Ellis’ “callups are based on current performance and form” philosophy, 2017 may finally give the Sky Blue stalwart her big break.
-- Jen Cooper