Backline Soccer’s Top NWSL Players: 1st place Defender

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Who doesn’t love a good ranking?

Backline Soccer decided to rank the NWSL’s best all-time goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards. We tried as much as possible to stick to NWSL play and keep any national team performance out of our decision-making.

How did we get to our finalists? A brutal two-round process that left each of us at our collective wit’s end trying to separate the best from an already stellar pool of players. 

In Round One, Backline Soccer crew members each chose 30 field players and 5 goalkeepers from a list of the nearly 300 players who have ever taken the pitch in the NWSL. And then, in Round Two, we separated the top seven players into each of their positions and ranked them from 1 to 5. 

Like we said. Brutal.

But we did it anyway. And here are our choices:


 #1 Defender: Becky Sauerbrunn – FC Kansas City 

The center of FCKC’s backline, Becky Sauerbrunn has been awarded the NWSL’s “Defender of the Year” award in three consecutive seasons (2013, 2014, and 2015). Allocated to the team in 2013, Sauerbrunn’s defensive prowess has spurred her team to two NWSL championships in 2014 and 2015. Her ability to quietly dispossess an attacking opponent has regularly saved GK Nicole Barnhart from having to attempt what might often be a difficult save, and often helped to keep their goal differential in the positives. Though the team as a whole struggled in the 2016 season, due to absences in the attacking and midfield positions, and a long period of multiple internationals called up for national team duty, Sauerbrunn’s work on the defensive end helped to keep the team afloat, leaving them with a 6th-place finish when many thought they would end much lower. With Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux expected to return for the 2017 season, and no major international tournaments on the horizon, the USWNT co-captain should have a stellar season ahead of her.