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USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992431 Here's a toast Here%27s+a+toast USA

The United States men had a big international year, with World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup. The women, on the other hand, played only 16 international games -- nine of them crowd-pleasing home friendlies. But the women had their biggest club season in years, pouring their efforts into the new NWSL and standing out in Europe's increasingly important club competitions. That leaves us with an unconventional Best XI, highlighting players from the Champions League to the ACC. This list isn't a simple regurgitation of the United States women's starting lineup. It's a list of those whose 2013 accomplishments were strong and sometimes surprising.


--Beau Dure

David Manning - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992434 Alex Morgan, F, Portland (NWSL) Alex+Morgan%2C+F%2C+Portland+%28NWSL%29 USA

The official US women's talisman? In the Algarve Cup, she scored the goal that clinched a spot in the final, then scored both goals in that final. A late injury limited her NWSL play, but she still made the Second XI with eight goals and five assists. She returned from injury just in time to set up Thorns teammate Christine Sinclair for the title-clinching goal in the NWSL final.


Second Best XI:


Sydney Leroux, F, Boston (NWSL): NWSL Best XI: 11 goals, two assists, third in Rookie of the Year voting. For USA: 10 goals, four assists. Moving to Seattle in 2014.

Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992432 Abby Wambach, F, Western New York (NWSL) Abby+Wambach%2C+F%2C+Western+New+York+%28NWSL%29 USA

She might be getting "better" after all these years, not just scoring with her head and underrated feet but also setting up teammates with deft touches under pressure. She raced past Mia Hamm's career scoring record, led the USA with 11 goals, and tied for the team lead with six assists. And she had one of her best seasons at club level, scoring 11 goals and eight assists to make the Best XI and place second in MVP voting.


Second Best XI:


Tobin Heath, M, PSG (France)/Portland (NWSL): MVP of the NWSL final, scoring on a sublime 30-yard free kick. Also played for ambitious Paris Saint-Germain and started seven games for the USA.

David Manning - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992445 Christen Press, F, Tyresö (Sweden) Christen+Press%2C+F%2C+Tyres%26ouml%3B+%28Sweden%29 USA

Instant offense. For the USA, she scored eight goals in 554 minutes, just over a goal every 70 minutes. That's a quicker rate than Sydney Leroux (10 goals/835 minutes), Alex Morgan (6/811) or Abby Wambach (11/989). Not bad for a newcomer capped for the first time this year. Then for Sweden's Tyresö, she had a league-leading 23 goals in the Damallsvenskan and four goals in her club's dangerous first four games in the Champions League, advancing Tyresö to the quarterfinals.


Second Best XI:


Brittany Taylor, D, Western New York (NWSL): NWSL Best XI, adding three goals and four assists while contributing to the league's top defense (22 games, 20 goals).


Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992433 Morgan Brian, M, Virginia (NCAA) Morgan+Brian%2C+M%2C+Virginia+%28NCAA%29 USA

Learn the name now, if you haven't already. The Hermann Trophy finalist and player of the year and the Cavaliers to a 24-1-1 record with 16 goals and 14 assists. She made her U.S. debut June 15 and scored her first international goal Sept. 3. And she has one more year in college.


Second Best XI:


M Kristie Mewis, Kansas City (NWSL): Earned first 10 U.S. caps and showed off her versatility with one of the league's strongest teams. Traded to Boston for 2014.

Bob DeChiara - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992435 Lori Chalupny, M, Chicago (NWSL) Lori+Chalupny%2C+M%2C+Chicago+%28NWSL%29 USA

One of the longest-running controversies in United States women's soccer kicked up anew when Chalupny, whose concussion history is keeping her off the USA team, proved to be the essential engine of the Red Stars midfield. Her five goals and four assists don't tell the story; her third-place finish in MVP voting does. When her bad luck continued (Tobin Heath's horror tackle ended her season), Chicago suffered greatly without her. Will US Soccer re-evaluate her?


Second Best XI:


Heather O'Reilly, M, Boston (NWSL): Five goals and six assists while stretching every defense the Breakers faced. Led the US in minutes played -- 1,143 of a possible 1,440.

Denny Medley - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992436 Megan Rapinoe, Lyon (France)/Seattle (NWSL) Megan+Rapinoe%2C+Lyon+%28France%29%2FSeattle+%28NWSL%29 USA

Maybe next time, Lyon will leave her on the field for more than 45 minutes in the Champions League final? She helped the French giants get to the final but was subbed out at halftime. Lyon conceded a second-half goal to lose a stunner to Wolfsburg. She returned to the States and had an immediate impact with the Reign, scoring five goals en route to the NWSL Second XI. Only managed to make seven USA games but had four goals and three assists.


Second Best XI:


Carli Lloyd, M, Western New York (NWSL): She has the big-game resume (see the last two Olympic finals), and she found consistency with the Flash this season, scoring eight goals. Curiously, no assists.

Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992437 Lauren Holiday, M, Kansas City (NWSL) Lauren+Holiday%2C+M%2C+Kansas+City+%28NWSL%29 USA

The former Lauren Cheney married NBA star Jrue Holiday and was named NWSL MVP -- an easy choice after leading the league in goals (12) and assists (nine). Also tied for the national team lead with six assists and chipped in three goals despite missing most of the Algarve Cup.


Second Best XI:


Erika Tymrak, M, Kansas City (NWSL): NWSL Rookie of the Year and Second XI with six goals and four assists, earning her first two caps with the U.S. team. Scored the last U.S. goal of the season -- her first in international play.

Jim O'Connor - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31994735 Ali Krieger, Washington (NWSL)/Tyresö (Sweden) Ali+Krieger%2C+Washington+%28NWSL%29%2FTyres%26ouml%3B+%28Sweden%29 USA

The breakout defensive star of the 2011 Women's World Cup missed the Olympics with a knee injury. Her comeback was emphatic. She scored her first international goal against China at the Algarve Cup and played 10 USA games. In the NWSL, she made the Second XI with her efforts to steady an inexperienced Washington Spirit backline and get into the attack. Then on to Sweden, where she helped Tyresö advance to the Champions League quarterfinals.


Second Best XI:


Rachel Buehler, D, Portland (NWSL): NWSL Second XI. For USA: 10 games, including the full 90 in the Algarve Cup final.

Paul Frederiksen - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992438 Christie Rampone, D, Sky Blue (NWSL) Christie+Rampone%2C+D%2C+Sky+Blue+%28NWSL%29 USA

You'd think a 38-year-old defender known for her speed would run out of steam in a full club season with international commitments as well. She didn't. The NWSL Best XI pick was second in Defender of the Year voting. She conceded just four fouls in 20 complete games, helping the injury-riddled team get to the playoffs. The USA captain finally had surgery to clean up her right knee, then returned to action and earned her 287th cap.


Second Best XI:


Leigh Ann Robinson, D, Kansas City (NWSL): NWSL Best XI, five assists, third in Defender of the Year vote. Earned her first U.S. national team cap at age 27.

Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992439 Becky Sauerbrunn, D, Kansas City (NWSL) Becky+Sauerbrunn%2C+D%2C+Kansas+City+%28NWSL%29 USA

Officially graduated from the USA bench, starting 10 of 16 games and carrying herself like someone with 149 caps, not 49. She was the uncontroversial pick as NWSL Defender of the Year. She's no longer just a curiosity who played every minute of the Washington Freedom's two years in WPS -- she's a core USA defender.


Second Best XI:


Crystal Dunn, D, North Carolina (NCAA): Finalist for her second straight Hermann Trophy. Made her USA debut and played eight games, establishing herself as a challenger not just for the 2015 roster but perhaps a starting spot. Next stop: NWSL.

Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports
USA 2737 2341 US Women's Best XI Players of 2013 31992440 Adrianna Franch, GK, Western New York (NWSL) Adrianna+Franch%2C+GK%2C+Western+New+York+%28NWSL%29 USA

How does Franch get the nod ahead of Nicole Barnhart (NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year), Ashlyn Harris (85 saves for Washington and vital player in Tyresö's Champions League campaign) and Hope Solo (81 saves in just 14 games for Seattle, and she's Hope Solo)? The Flash keeper did things rookie keepers aren't supposed to be able to do. She led the NWSL with 98 saves and was second (tied) in Goalkeeper of the Year voting along with the Rookie of the Year vote.


Second Best XI:


Nicole Barnhart, GK, Kansas City (NWSL): NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year (and Best XI), 10 shutouts. For USA: eight games, five starts, 1.00 GAA.

Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports
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