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3 NWSL veterans playing as well as ever

It’s been a good time for the league’s youth, but the stars are showing out.

By André Carlisle – @not_carlisle

3 NWSL veterans who look as good as ever

The USWNT and the NWSL are currently in the midst of a youth revolution. As young exciting players continue to develop, perform and routinely delight, some former stars have been pushed to the back seat of minds.

But these three veterans are refusing to only be seen through the rearview mirror:

 

Christen Press, forward, Angel City FC

Back home in L.A. with expansion side Angel City FC, Press is in the perfect environment to showcase the talents that made her a household name. Rather than relying on experience or guile to get points from tough games, new teams need to lean on a playmaker who can recognize and execute when opportunities are rare. Press has already done this twice for Angel City.

Versus last season’s champions, Washington Spirit, she scored the lone goal of the match in the 42nd minute. Against Kansas City, Press’s hustle to keep a ball in play and send it in a dangerous area caused an own goal that stood as the contest’s only score.

What’s impressive isn’t that Press is causing problems on a football pitch, she’s been doing that most of her life, but she’s fully bought-in to whatever role she needs to play at the moment. From mentor, to creator, to facilitator, to calming presence, to someone who can turn one point into three — she’s doing it all.

 

Alex Morgan, forward, San Diego Wave

Morgan’s six goals lead the NWSL, and in a league in which the tally that secured last year’s golden boot was ten, that’s impressive. Three penalties inflate the total, but a deeper dive reveals that Morgan is doing one of the hardest things to do in the sport: create and take shots inside the box. 

The USWNT forward already leads the league in shots taken (25, 10 more than second place), and is on a pace of 5.98 shots per 90 minutes. When you consider that soccer games are only 90 minutes, and that the ball is in play less than that, Morgan is averaging a shot at least every fifteen minutes, which is pure madness. (stats from FBref)

All but three of Morgan’s twenty-five total shots so far have come from inside the box. Shooting at this clip and within the opposition’s penalty area is hard to do, and has put her back on the map as one of the league’s most dangerous forwards.

 

Jess McDonald, forward, Racing Louisville

After blundering their expansion draft and coaching hire, Louisville and their new coach refreshed the squad with youth (they only have three players over 26) and added McDonald as a veteran presence — but she’s been so much more. McDonald is the best forward in the league at combining in the final third, and she has the NWSL all-time assists record to prove it.

McDonald, a dominant aerial threat who’s capable of scoring bangers, also has six key passes (a pass that creates a goalscoring opportunity) in five games, a tally equal to that of OL Reign assist-God, Sofia Huerta. For a team that only scored twenty-one goals last season and was shutout twelve times, it’s impressive that they’ve scored in every match so far, and McDonald’s two goals and one assist plays a big part in the team’s sudden consistency.

With a refreshed USWNT squad, head coach Vlatko Andonovski should take note of McDonald’s ability to put young talents in positions to flourish.

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