The NWSL Best XI for 2019 includes Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and midfielder Rose Lavelle. For both players, it’s a career first, and it’s the first time since 2015 that a Spirit player has been named to the Best XI.
The results are in!— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) October 24, 2019
Congrats to @AubreyBledsoe and @roselavelle for being named to the NWSL Best XI as voted by fans, coaches, players, and media. #SpiritFam | #CatchTheSpirit pic.twitter.com/clnFOs129x
Voted on by players (40%), fans (20%), media (20%), and owners/GMs/coaches (20%), the list drew immediate puzzlement on social media. Lavelle, for example, only played in six games for the Spirit this season, which is 25% of their schedule. Megan Rapinoe, named to the Second XI, is in the same boat, while Kelley O’Hara made the Second XI on the basis of just four appearances in NWSL play.
USWNT midfielder Allie Long offered a succinct summary of the reactions:
Congrats to all my girlies but how are the players who are up for MVP not in the best 11? @NWSL these awards will be viewed as a joke and this league will eventually lose credibility when you do this. https://t.co/R5AmkgLhlC— Allie Long (@ALLIE_LONG) October 24, 2019
There is, at time of publication, no breakdown of how the voting broke down. However, the NWSL Players Association made their vote public. Assuming their internal vote matches the votes sent to the NWSL, it only adds confusion to the Best XI and Second XI that were published:
@NWSL_players present our inaugural Player of the Year awards. These awards are voted for by ONLY the players of the NWSL.— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) October 18, 2019
Congratulations to our Team of the Year!#ProsKnow #ForThePlayersByThePlayers pic.twitter.com/MCpWqtWaYB
Despite all that, Bledsoe’s place on the list is certainly justified. She won a spot on the Team of the Month 3 times in 2019 while being routinely nominated for Save of the Week. The Spirit’s unfamiliar defense featured a career midfielder at right back, a center back pairing featuring a player years removed from playing the position alongside a rookie, and a revolving door on the left. Despite the lack of familiarity, Washington’s defense was one of the best in the NWSL, success that can be attributed in part to Bledsoe’s organizational abilities as well as her shot-stopping.
Lavelle, undoubtedly a world-class player who showed what she’s capable as a starter during the USWNT’s run through this year’s World Cup, only played 450 minutes in the league this season. Between the World Cup itself, a need to recuperate, and a concussion sustained in one of her five starts, Lavelle did not appear regularly for the Spirit. She did post 1 goal (a dramatic winner against the North Carolina Courage) and 1 assist.
The confusing Best XI — which only included one of the league’s five MVP nominees, among other things — was followed by a Second XI that was nearly as odd: