With the Western New York Flash into Sunday's championship, it's difficult to argue with Williams being named MVP. Williams led the way in goal for her team at 11 with five assists, and she has been an attacking spark that made the Flash difficult to contain. Her recent call-up to the national team is well-deserved, based on her NWSL season. Tobin Heath made a very strong case for the award as perhaps the best player on the Shield-winning Portland Thorns and Chicago Red Stars striker Christen Press also was a top contender. But Williams had a breakout season and nabs both of the top individual awards this season. She tied Kealia Ohai on goals, but won the the Golden Boot on the tiebreaker: assists.
Getty ImagesRich Barnes
Goalkeeper of the Year: Ashlyn Harris, Orlando Pride
In terms of goalkeeper quality, the competition for this award was pretty tight. Harris seems like a deserving winner as any based on pure goalkeeping, although her Orlando Pride side were eliminated from the playoffs fairly early. Alyssa Naeher of the Chicago Red Stars and Michelle Betos from the Portland Thorns did more to get their sides into the playoffs, but the people have spoken.
Roy K. Miller/isiphotos.com
Defender of the Year: Lauren Barnes, Seattle Reign
For the first time in NWSL history, Becky Sauerbrunn is not the Defender of the Year. It comes after a season where the Seattle Reign struggled surprisingly in the attack, with stars like Kim Little not being as productive as they have been in the past. But the team defense was one of the best in the league, and Barnes was a big part of that. She started every single Reign game and she was among the most consistent defenders the league has had in its four-year history. The Reign, even without goalkeeper Hope Solo for much of the season, tied for the most shutouts in the league (8) and they spent the fewest minutes trailing in match (317).
Roy K. Miller/isiphotos.com
Rookie of the Year: Raquel Rodriguez, Sky Blue FC
Rodriguez carved out a spot in Sky Blue's starting XI as a creative force in the midfield, becoming a key player in setting the tempo of Sky Blue's tactical setup. She had one goal and one assist. It's hard to see how Rachel Daly wasn't just as deserving, though. She scored four goals and four assists for a Houston Dash team that just wasn't that good, and she often did it in style. Still, Rodriguez impressed in her debut year and has a bright future ahead.
The Thorns got knocked out in the semifinals, but Parsons led the team to its first-ever NWSL Shield for the best regular season record. He overhauled the roster, getting rid of more than half the team, and carefully built a team based not just on talent, but on the right philosophy and attitude. That resulted in a Thorns team with the best chemistry ever and a proactive attractive playing style. There's a strong argument for Jim Gabarra of the Washington Spirit though. The team had considerably less talent than the Thorns and Gabarra developed an approach that made the Spirit greater than the sum of its parts. Now, the Spirit are into the championship. But this is a regular season award and Parsons' Thorns were the best team of the regular season.