December 21, 2017 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)
CHICAGO (Dec. 20, 2017) - Julie Ertz has been voted the 2017 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, while Sophia Smith earned Young Female Player of the Year honors.
Ertz is the third player to be named both the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year and Young Female Player of the Year. She was the Young Female Player of the Year in 2012 when she captained the USA to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup title and won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the tournament. Lauren Holiday (2014 & 2007) and Tobin Heath (2016 & 2009) are the other two, making the five years between the awards for Ertz the shortest time for any player.
Ertz, a breakout star at center back for the USA at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, started playing defensive midfielder during the Tournament of Nations last summer and made a huge impact at the position during the final eight games of the year, a stretch in which the USA went 7-0-1.
Her impact on both sides of the ball for club and country was impressive as she combined her world-class ball-winning skills with an ability to set the attack in midfield while proving consistently dangerous in the penalty area. Ertz garnered 51.6% of the votes. Megan Rapinoe finished second.
Ertz came on as a second-half substitute against Brazil on July 30 at the Tournament of Nations in the 57th minute and would go on to score the dramatic game-winner in the 89th minute of the epic 4-3 victory. She then played all but 52 minutes through the team's final seven games at defensive midfielder, dominating the center of the field while scoring five more goals, including a brace against New Zealand, to finish second on the team in scoring. Ertz's six total goals in 2017 almost equaled her overall total (8) from her previous four years on the WNT.
Playing almost exclusively as a defensive midfielder, Ertz played all but 48 minutes across 22 of the Chicago Red Stars' 24 regular season matches - as well as in the NWSL semifinal vs. the NC Courage - while scoring four goals and adding three assists. She was named to the NWSL Second XI.
"I want to give a big thanks to everyone who voted," Ertz said. "This was a really unique year for me with a lot of different challenges, but it means so much to have the support of my husband, my family, my coaches and my teammates. I'm honored and thankful from the bottom of my heart and I'm really looking forward to next year and as we have some big goals to accomplish."
U.S. Soccer Player of the Year Winners
Smith, a high school senior who hails from Windsor, Colorado, plays her club soccer for the Real Colorado U-18/19 Development Academy. She has scored 16 goals for her club so far this season.
The 17-year-old Smith had the rare distinction of scoring for three different U.S. National Teams this year. In February, she scored for the U-18 WNT against England and Norway. For the U-20 WNT, she scored against Norway (twice), Germany (twice), France, Japan and England (twice). For the U-23 WNT, she scored against Norway as well as the game-winner against the Portland Thorns.
A member of the 2016 Under-17 Women's World Cup Team, the speedy and elusive forward has become a key player for the U-20 WNT during the first year of its two-year cycle as she helps the squad work towards the goal of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. She tied for the team-lead in goals this year with eight and has played in 19 total international matches this year - the most of any player in any age group, including the senior WNT - over four Youth National Teams. She earned three caps for the U-23s, her first 11 for the U-20s, two for the U-19s, and three for the U-18s. She also earned valuable experience this year during her first call-up to the full U.S. Women's National Team, training with the senior side during April friendlies against Russia, but did not earn cap.
"I'm very honored and humbled to be receiving this award and am sincerely thankful for all the opportunities that U.S. Soccer has provided to me," Smith said. "Seeing all the players that have won this award before just gives me even more motivation to keep getting better and working even harder to continue pursuing my soccer dreams. I'm very blessed to have the opportunity to play with such talented players, who are also great friends and people in general, and I owe a lot to my National Team and Real Colorado coaches. We all push each other to be better every day."
Smith garnered 48.5% of the vote. Defender Tierna Davidson, a Stanford sophomore who helped lead the Cardinal to the NCAA championship this fall, finished second.
A new voting process for these awards was put into place in 2014. Votes are collected from respective National Team coaches, National Team players who have earned a cap in 2017, American soccer league (MLS, NASL and NWSL) head coaches, select media members, former players and administrators.
Players cannot win the Young Male or Young Female award more than once.
The U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year has been awarded since 1985, when midfielder Sharon Remer earned the first Female Athlete of the Year honor. The Young Female Player of the Year honor was first awarded in 1998, with Cindy Parlow earning the honor.
- ussoccer.com -