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Which under-the-radar NWSL player has caught your eye this season?

After a few weeks into the NWSL regular season, which under-the-radar players are standing out? Let’s talk about it.

2 min read

This question was submitted by Brenda P.

Thanks for the question, Brenda!

Based on the Challenge Cup and the first three weeks of the 2022 NWSL Regular Season, I have to give OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce a shoutout.

I’ll admit that Tullis-Joyce was nowhere near my radar as this season was approaching. I knew that OL Reign had to shake up their roster after players on loan from Lyon returned to France at the end of the 2021 season. With that in mind, I wondered who would step in to fill the starting goalkeeper position that had been occupied by veteran Sarah Bouhaddi, who was one of those loaned players.

I clearly should have paid more attention to the end of the 2021 regular season, when Laura Harvey made an 89th-minute goalkeeper substitution in the last game of the Reign’s regular season against the Kansas City Current. That was Tullis-Joyce’s NWSL debut!

Tullis-Joyce originally signed with the OL Reign in April 2021. At that time, she was in France, playing for Stade de Reims. It wasn’t until July 2021 that Tullis-Joyce arrived in Tacoma and joined the Reign’s goalkeeper union.

Fast-forwarding to the 2022 season, Tullis-Joyce has played every minute in net for the OL Reign. So far this season, she’s faced 48 shots while conceding just eight goals. In other words, on average, she’s conceding a goal for every six shots faced, which is the best rate in the league.

She’s also posting the highest saves per game ratio (4.2), and the 3rd lowest goals conceded per game ratio (0.89), only behind Portland’s Bella Bixby and San Diego’s Kailen Sheridan. Sheridan and Bixby were among the league’s best keepers in 2021, finishing second and third, respectively, for the Goalkeeper of the Year nod, which was awarded to Washington’s Aubrey Bledsoe.

After just nine games, Tullis-Joyce has clearly put herself front-and-center on the league’s radar – and she’s been garnering a lot of attention for her shot-stopping. She was named to the 2022 Challenge Cup All-Tournament Team in the goalkeeper spot and she’s won NWSL Save of the Week honors four times so far, including for my personal favorite save, which was a fantastic effort to deny Portland’s Natalia Kuikka during the Challenge Cup:

If she keeps this up, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her name on the 2022 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year shortlist. And since I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships, I think Tullis-Joyce’s brilliance might be a game-changer for the OL Reign down the stretch.

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