All five WNT played significant roles for the Women’s National Team during a 2018 that saw the USA finish its 20-game schedule with an undefeated record at 18-0-2. The five nominees were also impact players on the squad that qualified the USA for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Morgan finished 2018 with 18 goals in 19 games while playing 1,500 minutes, the most of anyone on the team. Ertz once again was a vital cog in the midfield, playing more than 1,000 minutes for the third time in her career while scoring four goals. In her comeback year after sitting out most of 2017 due to injuries, Heath provided consistent danger in the attacking third, scoring seven goals in eight starts while adding six assists. Rapinoe led the USA in assists this year with 12, tying her previous high for most in a calendar year and her play on the flank was a big part of the USA’s consistent success. She scored seven goals and started all 16 games in which she played. The 24-year-old Horan had a stellar year for both club and country and won the NWSL Most Valuable Player award. She played in every game but one for the USA in 2018, tying Alex Morgan for most on the team.
Three of the nominees have won U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year award before with Ertz winning in 2017, Heath in 2016 and Morgan earning the honor in 2012. Ertz (neé Johnston), Heath, and Horan have previously won the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award, with Heath winning in 2009, Ertz in 2012 and Horan in 2013.
2018 FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
Julie Ertz, Midfielder
Ertz carried the dominant play she showed in 2017 when she was named the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year straight into 2018. Ensconced at defensive midfielder, she started 15 of the 16 games she played for the USA this year, playing more than 1,000 minutes for the third time in her career while scoring four goals to up her international total to 18. Her impact was once again impressive, combining world-class ball-winning skills with her ability to strike on goal through set plays and from the run of play. She scored in the first game of the year against Denmark, tallied a crucial goal against Brazil in the Tournament of Nations that helped the USA take the title in a must-win game, and then scored twice in the Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, against Mexico in the opening game and against Jamaica in the semifinal win that sent the USA to France. She finished the year with 73 career caps. While she missed several club games due to injury, she helped lead the Chicago Red Stars to the NWSL Playoffs, playing 1,126 minutes over 14 games, both at defensive midfielder and center back, and was named to the NWSL Second XI. Ertz was also a finalist for NWSL Defender of the Year.
Lindsey Horan, Midfielder
Still just 24-years-old, Horan had one of the most successful years in her six-year professional career, helping lead the Portland Thorns to the NWSL Championship Game and was named NWSL Most Valuable Player and to the NWSL Best XI. She scored 13 goals, which was third best in the league and also had two assists. She played every minute of all 22 regular games in which she appeared and was the fulcrum of a Thorns attack that scored 40 goals, second only to the champion North Carolina Courage. She also scored the game-winner in the 2-1 semifinal victory over rival Seattle Reign to send her team to the championship game, which it hosted. For the USA, Horan also raised her game in contributing greatly to the USA’s attacking rhythm and defense in the midfield, especially through her aerial abilities, while playing 1,298 minutes in 19 of the USA’s 20 games, 16 of which she started. She scored three goals with eight assists, which was second best on the team behind Megan Rapinoe. Her goals came against Mexico and T&T, as well as a dramatic late-game equalizer against Australia that kept the USA’s unbeaten year and its Tournament of Nations hopes alive. She led the USA in assists during World Cup qualifying with five. Horan is also a nominee for the first France Football Women's Ballon d'Or.
Tobin Heath, Forward
Heath didn’t return to the U.S. lineup until June 12 after completing her long recovery from injury, but she was on fire for the rest of the year, scoring seven goals with six assists in just 10 games over 657 minutes. She averaged a goal or an assist for every 50 minutes on the field in the latter part of the year and scored one of the most important goals of 2018 when she tallied against Brazil in the Tournament of Nations in Chicago. The goal made it 3-1, giving the USA the margin of goal difference it needed to win the title. In her return to the field on June 12, 2018 (she had last played for the USA on Sept. 19, 2017 against New Zealand), she came into the match in the 64th minute and scored the game-winner in the 75th. She also scored against Chile and had four goals in World Cup qualifying. She had several spectacular assists during the year, most notably against Brazil in the Tournament of Nations when her spectacular dribbling run and cross set up Julie Ertz to give the USA a 2-1 lead. The skillful and dynamic Heath was equally as good for the Portland Thorns, for whom she played 1,267 minutes over 17 games and scored seven goals with seven assists. Even though she missed a few games at the start of the campaign, she was still named to the NWSL Best XI.
Alex Morgan, Forward
In a career of many excellent years, this one was one of Morgan’s best. She ended 2017 on a roll and kept it going throughout the entirety of 2018, scoring 18 goals in 19 games, far and away the most on the U.S. team, while also picking up three assists. Morgan averaged almost a goal a game in 2018 while scoring against nine different countries. She tallied in the first game of the year against Denmark, and also scored against Mexico, China PR, Japan, Brazil, T&T, Jamaica, Canada and Scotland. She had six multiple-goal games, including a hat trick against Japan in the Tournament of Nations, and moved to third place all-time in U.S. history in multiple-goal games, tied with Michelle Akers (26), and behind only Abby Wambach (45) and Mia Hamm (38). She won the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament, pounding in seven goals over the five matches. Her two goals in the semifinal win against Jamaica helped send the USA to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and she bagged a clinching goal in the CONCACAF championship game against Canada. Her 18 goals were her second-most in a calendar year as she terrorized opponents all year long with her speed running at goal and lethal finishing in the penalty area. She finished the year with 98 career goals. For the Orlando Pride in the NWSL, she played in 1,500 minutes over 19 games and had five goals and two assists.
Megan Rapinoe, Forward
Rapinoe was consistently dangerous with her goal-scoring or setting up her teammates this year, and led the USA in assists with 12, tied for her career-high in a calendar year. Seven of Rapinoe’s assists were on Alex Morgan goals. She started all 17 matches she played, logging 1,214 minutes (good for sixth on the team) and had seven goals as well. Her combined goals and assists (19) were highest on the U.S. team for any player besides Morgan (21). Rapinoe’s creative and dynamic flank play was one of the keys to the USA’s success in 2018, as was her leadership in a year in which she captained the team on several occasions. She scored some important goals for the USA in 2018, tallying the game-winner in the 1-0 win against Germany in the SheBelieves Cup and also sent in the cross that England bundled into its own net for a 1-0 win the same tournament. She scored against Mexico in two different games, in a 2-1 win vs. China PR and against Japan in the Tournament of Nations. She also scored against Jamaica in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship semifinal to help send the USA to France next summer. Rapinoe was a finalist for NWSL MVP in a year that saw her play 1,315 minutes over 16 games for the Seattle Reign as they finished third in the NWSL. She scored seven goals (tied for 10th in the league) and had six assists (tied for fourth) and was named to the NWSL Best XI. Rapinoe was one of 10 finalists for the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and finished fourth in the voting, just one percentage point out of third. She won the 2018 ESPY for Best NWSL player. This was the first year the ESPYs honored a Best NWSL Player. Rapinoe is also a nominee for the first France Football Women's Ballon d'Or.