Since the United States Women’s National team’s 2015 World Cup win, a lot of new faces have put on the coveted shirt for the first time. A few of those names include 19-year-old Mallory Pugh, Casey Short, Rose Lavelle, Lynn Williams, and Andi Sullivan. Another common denominator with these players is how young they are, the oldest being 26 and the youngest being 19. I could name a handful more but instead here is a player who I believe deserves a call-up this year: Arin Gilliland.
The 24-year-old defender plays her club ball for the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL. Gilliland was drafted out of Kentucky in the 2015 NWSL College Draft, taken eighth overall. The 2015 College Draft is actually my favorite of each that the NWSL has hosted since the league started. It saw players like Morgan Brian, Lynn Williams, and Samantha Mewis enter the league. Players who are all now very important pieces of their NWSL teams as well as the senior national team.
As a rookie in 2015, Gilliland played in 17 games with Chicago, helping to lead them into the playoffs, and was named to the NWSL’s second-best XI. Her second season proved to be even better; she started in 21 games and was a big contributor to the 2016 Red Stars’ 1.0 goals against average.
This season Gilliland has played in 11 games, starting 10 of those. She has been a huge part of the Red Stars’ success this season, quietly doing her part as usual. She has helped Chicago to a 7-3-3 record, which is good for 24 points, second on the table and within striking distance of first. In her third season, Gilliland has been steady as ever, working well with a rotation of players that include Short, Julie Ertz, Katie Naughton, and Sam Johnson. Gilliland is well known in the league for her lock-down defense, her ability to contain just about every player she goes up against.
The current USWNT list of defenders does include another Red Star–Casey Short, who has accumulated 10 caps since debuting in 2016. And Gilliland has been called into national team camp, getting her first call-up in October of 2016. But somehow this capable, steady, and superb defender doesn’t have a cap to her name. She rarely gets beaten down the right side, but in the rare event that she does, her recovery speed reminds me of a certain USWNT veteran who is universally known for her incredible speed when tracking back (if you guessed Ali Krieger, you are correct).
In their 13 games so far this season, Chicago has scored 16 goals while only giving up 11. Gilliland has been doing her part exceptionally well. The team relies on her strength and positioning each game, and her willingness to do whatever it takes to win. When you see her play, there is passion in her eyes, fight in her tackles, and her domination on the backline is evident in the lack of opponent’s goals on the scoreboard. Gilliland is what the NFL would refer to as a “shut-down-corner.” She is one of the best in the league, certainly a top-five type of player and, in my opinion, sorely underrated.
Arin Gilliland player is the kind of player who is consistently great across the back. With her quality possession, her eagle-eye vision, her crunching tackles, and the way she handles opposing threats, she would be a welcome and reliable presence on the USWNT backline, a defense that feels more like a merry-go-round these days.
And, yes, I get it. Head coach Jill Ellis is working out a lot of things, experimenting in just about every position to find what works in anticipation of the next tournament cycle. But, given the resume Gilliland has along with her talent, this Chicago Red Star deserves a chance to take the pitch in a US jersey.
If the USWNT want a chance at another WWC trophy in 2019, we need to build another Department of Defense. Arin Gilliland could be one of the pieces we need to make our backline great once again.
It’s time for a call-up, Jill.