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  • Writer's pictureOliver Hunt

Who’s that goalie? Which NWSL field player would be best to get in goal for their team?

At the very end of an already chaotic game, Abby Smith went down with an injury, and Gotham was out of substitutions due to a few emergency subs in the first half. In true team player fashion, Nealy Martin stepped into goal for her teammate, wearing a goalie kit over the top of her jersey, and defended the goal for the last five minutes of the match. Gotham picked up the pace towards the end and even got one back in stoppage time, so Martin never ended up having to make a save.

But it leaves everyone to wonder, which player on their team would get tapped to go in goal should the unthinkable happen? Because the NWSL is still the NWSL and crazier things happen every day. We took a swing at putting players back in goal for every NWSL team, and here are our picks:

Angel City FC – Paige Nielsen

Paige Nielsen defends Trinity Rodman in matchup between Washington Spirit and Angel City FC. Photo by Aralynn Minnick for WSX

While Angel City is full of players who are all about team-winning mentality and bringing their all, Nielsen has an extra edge of ‘whatever it takes’. She’s already played over 1,300 minutes for LA this year, and she gives her everything for every one of those minutes with seemingly endless energy. Nielsen also has lots of personality off the pitch bringing the energy in practice and making her teammates laugh. Stepping into goal as a field player is a stressful concept, and Neilsen could keep her cool and encourage her teammates, as well as make a save or two with her strong defensive mindset.

Chicago Red Stars – Ally Schlegel

If there’s one rookie we trust to get in goal and keep things out, it’s Schlegel. The Penn State graduate scored in her NWSL debut and has been bodying her way around defenders to for the Red Stars ever since. She’s scrappy in the box, constantly looking for that second ball with the focus of a veteran. She’s always willing to step in and step up wherever, leaving no doubt in our minds that she would be able to channel all that rookie energy that has her running box to box and make a formidable goalie.

Houston Dash – Caprice Dydasco

Dydasco is a bright spot in an otherwise dim season for the Dash, a consistent standout amongst the backline. She has great ball control and an eye for the game, making space out wide and going one-on-one with some of the league’s best attackers fearlessly. The 2021 Defender of the Year, Dydasco dazzles on the field, making crosses to set up her teammates for success, which gives us confidence that she would give great delivery out of goal. She’s also started every match this season, which proves her endurance and fitness are more than enough for her to have success in goal should the Dash need her.

Kansas City Current – Hailie Mace

Not dissimilar to Kelli Hubly, Mace also brings a certain flair to the pitch that ends up working well for her team and not so well against others, as she often makes the tackles that need making and picks up a foul or two as a result. But that rough play and determination would serve her well in the net. Mace has bounced around to different positions for both club and country, getting a few USWNT call-ups here and there. Her way of seeing the complete picture would only benefit her decisions as a stand-in goalie.

NJ/NY Gotham FC – Kristie Mewis

It would be a cop-out to go with Martin, so instead we went with the next best thing. Kristie Mewis has always been a big team player, usually going for the assist rather than the goal, which makes her a great choice to step in between the posts. Besides her height, which is absolutely a factor, Mewis would likely show the same fight and determination in goal that she shows in the midfield, willing to put her body on the line to make the right pass or tackle. Her assist experience also showcases Mewis’ ability to read plays, and seeing three passes ahead is vital for a goalie.

North Carolina Courage – Tyler Lussi

Tyler Lussi prepares for a cross in game against the Portland Thorns. Photo by Kallie Hansel-Tennes for WSX.

A natural forward, Lussi stepped up big time for Angel City in 2022 when she spent almost the entire season playing on the backline, somewhere she’s never played before. Her willingness to jump right into a new spot in order to help the team makes her a great choice for goalie. Not to mention her unique experience of having significant time on both sides of the ball and seeing the game in a more complex way as a result. Flexing on the competition isn’t just a fun celebration either, Lussi’s upper body strength would surely come in handy in goal, and of course, the height doesn’t hurt.

OL Reign – Emily Sonnett

There are many chaotic players in this league, but Emily Sonnett might just take the cake for most out of the box. It’s that wild energy that would serve her well in goal. Well-known for earning a foul or two, Sonnett has been key to the Reign’s midfield this season. This showcases her incredible versatility as a player, seeing as she played center back for the Spirit, outside back for the USWNT, and now midfield for the Reign. Why not give her a shot in goal as well? She’s consistently organizing her squad on the field, and her voice carrying out from goal would surely get the Reign backline into shape. Plus, of all the would-be goalies on this list, Sonnett seems the most likely to make some wild save that would go down in league history.

Orlando Pride – Kylie Strom

A left-back who has been playing every minute for Orlando this season, Strom has spoken about turning around the narrative for the Pride, and what better way to do so than to lend her talents to the goal. Strom has scored one goal and gotten one assist this season, and both of those were on set pieces. Knowing the ins and outs of set pieces from an attacking standpoint as a defender would surely benefit Strom in goal. She’s also already consistently providing through balls from the wings up to the talents of Marta and Adriana, and it seems like she’d be comfortable doing so in goal as well.

Portland Thorns – Kelli Hubly

Kelli Hubly makes sliding tackle that ultimately leads to sending off in game against the North Carolina Courage. Photo by Kallie Hansel-Tennes

Although Hubly stirred up quite a bit of noise this weekend with a red card sending her off very early into the Thorns game, it’s definitely part of the reason why she’d be a great goalie. That fire and passion aren’t teachable, and Hubly has an X factor about her that no one can deny. Bringing that wild energy into the goal would undoubtedly get the whole team fired up. Hubly is also very competitive, pulling out all the stops for Portland often, making the necessary tackles to stop attackers, and there’s no doubt in our minds she’d do whatever is necessary to keep balls out of goal as well.

Racing Louisville – Abby Erceg

You want your goalie to have experience, and keep a cool head under pressure, and Abby Erceg can deliver that for Racing. The veteran defender has one of the most steady records in the league, consistently showing up at a high level on the backline as a center-back. Erceg integrated into the Racing backline with ease, connecting with her new teammates like she’s been playing there for years. This means it’s highly likely she’d be willing to step into goal and do just as good of a job commanding the defense from between the posts as she does on the field.

San Diego Wave – Meggie Dougherty Howard

Another player with a lot of experience, Dougherty Howard is new to San Diego but has fit in very well as a veteran for a team that was in desperate need of a midfield. A leader on the field, Dougherty Howard is a physical player, something we were looking for when trying to find a goalie out in San Diego. She credits this to growing up playing with boys and also has an innate competitiveness that drew her to San Deigo as a free agent hungry for a championship. And as a player willing to do anything for the win, Dougherty Howard would be a steady choice for a keeper.

Washington Spirit – Sam Staab

Sam Staab warms up for game against Angel City FC. Photo by Aralynn Minnick for WSX.

Who better to get in goal for the Spirit than DC’s Iron Woman Sam Staab? A player who is consistently breaking her own record for most consecutive NWSL starts, Staab has been a commanding presence on the backline for the Spirit and would be even more so in goal. Defensive structure is key for a goalie, and no one better understands the Spirit’s defense than Staab, who has stuck around throughout a rotating backline. That consistency in her play and her fitness means innate trust from her teammates, making her someone they would likely feel comfortable with in goal, and so would we.


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