Naomi Girma wins 2023 NWSL Defender of the Year

SD Wave

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Credit: SD Wave

Star center-back for San Diego Wave FC, Naomi Girma, won her second NWSL Defender of the Year award after another astounding year, holding down the backline as one of the best defenders in the world. 

Girma was among the top five players in passes with completed and passing accuracy across the NWSL. She led the Wave backline to another fantastic defensive season, holding the opposition to only 22 goals during the regular season, the second-lowest in the league. 

She also played in every minute of her 19 regular season matches and only missed three matches as she was away for the USWNT at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand over the summer. 

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There, she was a star for the USWNT, replacing Becky Sauerbrunn, who was captain for the team, leaving big boots to fill. Girma did so and exceeded expectations as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster campaign by the team that got knocked out in the round of 16 after making the final four in all their other appearances in the tournament. 

Girma is also the first to win the award in back-to-back years since Sauerbrunn did so three straight years from 2013 through 2015 for FC Kansas City. Prior to being picked first overall in the 2022 draft. The San Jose, Calif. native played at Stanford University, where she won two Pac-12 Championships and one NCAA College Cup Championship as the captain in 2019. 

Girma’s rookie campaign was special as she won the NWSL Rookie of the Year and Defender of the Year awards, thanks to her dominant presence on the backline that helped push the Wave to the playoffs in 2022. 

The 23-year-old centre-back signed a new maximum-length contract with the Wave in June through the 2026 season to keep her in San Diego for as long as possible.

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