It’s hockey offseason for a while yet. Maybe watching the Women’s World Cup got you excited about soccer, or maybe it just made you miss hockey. If you’re interested in following women’s soccer while we all wait for hockey’s return, but have no idea where to start or who to watch, this handy little guide is for you!
Hilary Knight → Tobin Heath
If you like Hilary Knight, you’ll love Tobin Heath. Like Knight, she’s been a fixture on Team USA for a long time. Both players are known for scoring and making opposition look absolutely silly with their skills — whether it’s puckhandling or ballhandling. Both of them can get a little lost in the sauce sometimes, but it’s just a byproduct of the drive to make creative plays at all costs. And when it works? It’s very, very cool.
Their aesthetics are similar off the field, too. If you’re into the sneaker game and you love nothing more than you love watching players with incredible skill, Tobin Heath is your gal.
You can watch Heath play with the Portland Thorns in the NWSL when she’s not with the national team.
Annie Pankowski → Rose Lavelle
Like Annie Pankowski, Rose Lavelle is on a massive upswing in her young career. Both players have made incredible contributions to their teams in their most recent tournaments — Lavelle winning the bronze ball at the 2019 World Cup while Pankowski had seven points (4g, 3a) in seven games during the 2019 World Championship. Also, they both went to the University of Wisconsin for college, and both were first overall picks (Rose Lavelle to the Boston Breakers, Annie Pankowski to the Metropolitan Riveters).
You can watch Rose with the Washington Spirit in the NWSL.
Kacey Bellamy → Becky Sauerbrunn
Maybe you, like me, just love a good defensive play. Maybe when you’re watching hockey, there’s nothing you love more than a good blocked shot, or a stick-lift. If that’s the case, good news: soccer has that, too.
Becky Sauerbrunn is undoubtedly the Kacey Bellamy of American women’s soccer. She’s been around for a while, she’s unflappable, and she’s thinking about defense first. They might not get on the scoresheet, but these players are where it all begins.
You can watch Sauerbrunn with the NWSL’s Utah Royals.
Megan Keller → Kelley O’Hara
Maybe you like defense, but you like your defense with a little more spice. If that’s what you’re looking for, Kelley O’Hara is your gal. Kelley, like Megan Keller, is a defender who is more than capable of bringing the play directly to the net herself — and scoring. They are also both capable defenders, although they might not give you exactly the same feeling of security as the Becky Sauerbrunns of the world.
If you like being fondly exasperated by Keller spending some time in the box (whether the call is good or not), you’ll like Kelley even more, as she does occasionally commit slightly unnecessary fouls — nothing dangerous, but the kind that might lead to a facepalm or two.
You can also catch O’Hara with the NWSL’s Utah Royals.
Alex Rigsby / Maddie Rooney → Alyssa Naeher
If you like goaltending you’ll love Alyssa Naeher. When Team USA managed to make it to a shootout in Pyeongchang — and again this past spring in Espoo — their gold-medal hopes rested equally on the shoulders of those taking the shots and on the shoulders of those trying to stop them.
One of the most admirable and necessary skills for a goaltender is the ability to stay stone-cold focused during moments of incredibly high pressure. Maddie Rooney did this when she made the shootout save that won Team USA their first Olympic Gold in women’s hockey for 20 years. Alex Rigsby did this when went lights-out in the shootout after a controversial no-goal call and brought Team USA their fifth women’s World Championship in a row. Alyssa Naeher did it when she saved a penalty kick during Team USA’s semifinal against England, preserving the lead in the 83rd minute.
You can keep up with Naeher’s club season by following the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL.
Dani Cameranesi → Alex Morgan
Let’s say you like goals. Like, a lot of goals. You like the versatile, showy player who can make it happen no matter who she’s playing with — and look good doing it. You like Dani Cameranesi because she’s out there wreaking havoc on the international and club and college stages and the whole time her mascara is always on point.
You love a good superstar and you’ll love Alex Morgan. Alex has 107 goals in 169 international appearances. You have to scroll to get through her list of awards on Wikipedia. Cameranesi is closer to the beginning of her career than Morgan, but she already has an impressive list of accolades herself, so you can see the comparison beyond just their styles of play.
Plus, they’re both hilarious, and more likely than you might guess to chirp their teammates into next week.
Alex Morgan plays for the NWSL’s Orlando Pride.
Hayley Scamurra → Lindsey Horan
If one of your favorite things about hockey is the physicality, you may be concerned that soccer players flop too much for you to have much fun with them. Maybe you like players like Hayley Scamurra, who use their bodies to get in good positions to score and to create space for their teammates. You might think that only works on the ice, but you’d be wrong: let me introduce you to Lindsey Horan.
Horan isn’t the tallest on the national team (that honor goes to Sam Mewis at 6’0”) but at 5’9” she’s formidable on the field and makes an immediate physical impact on every play. Like Scamurra, she’s responsible with the ball (or puck) and has a great shot. Also like Scamurra, a lot of what makes her valuable is her work off the ball (or puck), drawing the attention of defenders, freeing up her teammates, and feeding them to score.
You can watch Horan with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns.
Amanda Kessel → Christen Press
Let’s say you’ve watched Amanda Kessel play from her Gopher days through her concussion and rise to club stardom. Although this wasn’t always the case, you could argue that today Kessel is somehow underrated, in spite of the fact that we all theoretically know how good she is. That’s because she’s a great player on a team of great players.
Like Kessel, Christen Press has somehow found herself a depth piece on a ridiculously stacked team, but has handled her role with grace and managed to perform extremely well regardless of where she’s been deployed. Both Press and Kessel are skilled goalscorers and highly cerebral players who understand and can play both sides of the ball (or field), providing some defensive stability to go hand in hand with their offensive upside.
This is Amanda Kessel. Chipping a puck past a pinching CAN defender and sniping a goal top corner on the rush. This is plenty interesting. pic.twitter.com/HvnwclQ8Qp— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) March 15, 2017
Below you can find the soccer equivalent of sick dangles:
Make that 4 for the !— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 7, 2018
Christen Press finds the back of the net on a breakaway goal for the USWNT. pic.twitter.com/cMn0seaGeq
You can watch Press play with the NWSL’s Utah Royals.