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Lion Links: 10/28/22

Sophia Smith named NWSL MVP, Naomi Girma wins NWSL Rookie and Defender of the Year, Josef Martinez will reportedly leave Atlanta United, and more.

NWSL: San Diego Wave FC at Portland Thorns FC Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the final Friday of October! Do you have any Halloween plans this weekend or will you be celebrating on Monday instead? Due to my hair, I usually just go as Bob Ross and will probably do the same on Monday when I go out to a bar with friends. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride defender Courtney Petersen!

Sophia Smith Wins NWSL MVP

Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith became the youngest player to ever be named NWSL MVP. Drafted by the Thorns in 2020, this was the 22-year-old’s first time winning an end-of-season award. Smith scored 14 goals in 18 games this season, setting a club record for goals in a single season. Her 76 shots were the most in the league and she put 49 of those shots on target. The American helped the Thorns lead the league with 49 goals and will look to finish her stellar year with a win in tomorrow night’s NWSL championship match against the Kansas City Current.

Naomi Girma Named NWSL Rookie and Defender of the Year

San Diego Wave FC center back Naomi Girma won both NWSL Rookie of the Year and NWSL Defender of the Year, becoming the first rookie to ever win two end-of-year awards. Selected with the No. 1 overall pick, Girma had over 1800 minutes to help anchor a Wave defense that only allowed 21 goals in 22 games this season. Girma was also a finalist for MVP alongside Wave teammate Alex Morgan. Earlier this week, Wave Head Coach Casey Stoney was named Coach of the Year and the Wave’s Kailen Sheridan won Goalkeeper of the Year.

Josef Martinez Reportedly Won’t Play for Atlanta Next Year

According to The Athletic, Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez won’t be back with the Five Stripes next season. He’s helped Atlanta win plenty of silverware, but was suspended for a game by the club for “conduct detrimental to the team” this past September. Martinez has played for Atlanta since its inaugural year in 2017, scoring 98 goals in 134 regular-season games. If this report is true, it will be bizarre to see Martinez playing elsewhere, particularly if he joins another club in MLS. While an ACL injury in 2020 has limited him to a degree, he’s still incredibly talented and a scoring threat capable of spearheading an offense. It will be interesting to see where he plays next year to say the least.

Gonzalo Higuain Wins MLS Comeback Player of the Year

Inter Miami forward Gonzalo Higuain was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year, beating out San Jose Earthquakes forward Jeremy Ebobisse and CF Montreal’s Kei Kamara. Higuain did not start for 14 consecutive games this season, but the Argentine striker went on a tear as Miami made its playoff push. Although he only played 1,750 minutes this past season, Higuain scored 16 times and provided game-winning goals three times in September. Personally, I think Ebobisse should have won for starting every game for San Jose and scoring 17 goals following a rough year with the Portland Timbers.

Free Kicks
  • Central Florida Crusaders Head Coach Tom Traxler spoke about the team finding talent from its open tryouts.
  • A balloonicle celebrating the United States Men’s National Team will be featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It should be a nice way to get the nation excited before the team takes on England in the World Cup the following day.
  • Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was fined for his behavior following his red card in a match against Manchester City.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and rest of your weekend.