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Meet the three NWSL goalscorers making unexpected contributions to their teams

Nobody thought these players would become key pieces in 2024, but they’ve all leveled up at the same time.

7 min read
Kansas City Current

The National Women’s Soccer League is a notoriously difficult league to predict. 

For one thing, its high level of parity means that results can swing wildly in any direction. For another, the lack of publicly available video and advanced data on players in many other countries presents a challenge to writers like me trying to figure out whether somebody like, say, Temwa Chawinga can adapt to the fast, physical environs of America’s top women’s pro league. 

Even players who have a season or two of NWSL action under their belts can make a big leap that their past performances wouldn’t have indicated. 

We’re going to talk about three such players today. Whether their early promise has turned into small-sample-size domination, their star teammate has ceded ground to their potency in front of goal, or they’re happy to be a dangerous role player for their world-destroying colleagues, each of these forwards is turning heads at the halfway point of the 2024 campaign. 

How are they doing it? 

*Non-penalty xG and xA are averaged from three models from FBref, American Soccer Analysis, and Wyscout.

Ella Stevens, the Super-Sub Turned Goal Monster 

  • Team: Gotham FC
  • Age: 26
  • Years in the NWSL: 4
  • 2024 goals: 5
  • 2024 non-penalty xG per 96: 0.65, third among forwards with over 500 minutes

Stevens had a great sophomore season in 2022, coming off the bench for the Chicago Red Stars and bagging four goals.

Her promotion to permanent member of the starting XI the following year, however, saw serious regression – she scored four goals in 2023, but across double the minutes. Her xG per 96 was cut in half. Things were decidedly trending in the wrong direction, and when she signed with Gotham in the offseason, it was assumed she’d return to the bench behind her new team’s USWNT firepower. 

Things have taken a surprising turn. Juan Carlos Amoros named Stevens to the starting lineup for the first time on May 4, ahead of Crystal Dunn.

Then, he slotted her into the lineup again a week later ahead of Yazmeen Ryan. The week after that, Stevens was moved centrally while Esther Gonzalez dropped into midfield and Dunn once again rode the pine. A brief return to the bench in favor of Ryan and Esther ended on May 24, when Stevens stepped back into a starting role and hasn’t looked back. 

To be clear: we really mean it when we say she hasn’t looked back. 

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