From incredible international players to USWNT superstars, the NWSL is loaded with talented players. Now, and rather suddenly, there are quite a few ultra talented teenage prodigies running around causing a ruckus.
While they all have slightly different attributes to their game, they all share one extremely key ingredient: fearlessness. They may be in the most physical league in the world, matching up against players five, 10 and 20 years their elder, but these kids do not care. And it is marvelous.
Alyssa Thompson was the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and she’s done nothing but show everyone why. The fact that she was playing in high school less than a year ago makes me want to say a prayer for the kids who had to face her.
This bit of skill was outright filthy, as she tormented Portland’s Kelli Hubly – a solid defender and six-year NWSL vet – for half the length of the pitch. Flicking the ball over Hubly into space is mean, using her track star speed to be first to the ball is mean, cutting back while her defender was trying to recover is mean, then unleashing a low wicked shot that beat Bella Bixby (another vet) near post is also, and extremely, mean.
Jaedyn Shaw has three goals in five games, just one behind Golden Boot race leaders Debinha, Sophia Smith and Ashley Hatch. Shaw may only be 18, but her game is already bursting with the savvy of an elite player 10 years her senior. Her goal against Orlando this weekend revealed how dangerously cerebral she can be.
Shaw used a smart double move to pull her center back away from the space she wanted to attack. As she awaited the cross, Shaw positioned herself perfectly between the center backs and casually drifted high, pulling the near post defender with her. Then, at the perfect moment, Shaw darted into the vacated space to meet the ball with a wicked first time touch that sent it spinning by the keeper near post.
None of this is easy! It can take years to develop these instincts, but Shaw is already reading the game and manipulating opponents at an expert level.
Though Moultrie is a year younger than Thompson and Shaw, she’s already playing in her third NWSL season. Portland is a team loaded with talent, giving Moultrie time and space to get up to the speed and physicality of the league. If this pass is any indication, she may already be ready for a larger role.
Let us get one thing straight: this pass is stupid. I don’t mean like dumb, I mean as in it left multiple people – me included – dumbfounded. The reverse angle is great because you see it’s not only a perfectly timed pass, but it was perfectly curled too. There was only one person in the stadium or watching at home who saw the possibility of that pass in that moment, and it was the teenager who executed it.
The invasion of the fearless talent monsters doesn’t stop there. Washington Spirit’s Chloe Ricketts, 15, has been a sparkplug in each of her substitute appearances, displaying every ounce of that trademarked fearlessness. Against Orlando, San Diego Wave debuted Melanie Barcenas, 15, who officially became the youngest ever player to play in the NWSL – and yes, is just as fearless too.