San Diego Wave FC’s star centerback Naomi Girma was voted the 2023 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.
She was honored for her strong 2023 campaign, which saw her shine as the best player for the USWNT in New Zealand and Australia at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Girma helped anchor a defense that won the Wave the 2023 Supporter’s Shield for the best point total at the end of the season.
“I’m honored and grateful to be the first defender and second Black player to win this award, but it’s really a testament to all the hard work put in by our goalkeepers, the back line, and our whole team to achieve a historic year for our defense,” Girma said. “We are all very connected, work hard on the field, watch a lot of film to get better and really take pride in stopping teams from scoring.”
Girma was the Wave’s number one overall draft pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft out of Stanford University. In her first season, she won both the NWSL Rookie of the Year award and NWSL Defender of the Year, which she won again the following season.
In June, just before Girma left for the World Cup over the summer, she signed a new three-year contract with an option that the Wave has already exercised that goes through the 2026 season.
Girma is also the first center back to win the award, with the only other defenders to have won the award being Goalkeeper Hope Solo in 2009 and then defensive midfielder Julie Ertz in 2017 and 2019.
“I always want to thank my friends and family because they’ve been with me on every step of this journey. My coaches and teammates for club and country are the people who have helped shape me into the person and player I am today, so I’m very thankful to all of them,” Girma said. “I’m super excited for what’s to come and can’t wait to get started here in 2024.”
This year, the Wave may hope to get another young standout from the NWSL draft, which takes place on Friday, January 12, in Anaheim, California. As of now, the Wave only has a first and fifth-round selection in the draft after trading in transactions over the offseason.
Abraham Zepeda is a bilingual Chula Vista Native covering the Tijuana Xolos for EVT. He spent the summer of 2022 covering San Diego Loyal SC and San Diego Wave FC. He is also currently a student at the University of Oregon pursuing a degree in journalism.