NWSL Award Finalists Have Distinct LI Flavor

NWSL, Allie Long, Emily Menges
Allie Long (left) and Emily Menges.
NWSL, Allie Long, Emily Menges
Allie Long (left) and Emily Menges.

The finalists for several National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) awards including most valuable player have connections to either Long Island or the New York Metropolitan Area.

Huntington native Allie Long of Portland Thorns FC is one of five finalists for league MVP while her teammate and fellow Long Islander Emily Menges of Garden City is among the five finalists for NWSL Defensive Player of the Year.

The three Rookie of the Year finalists include St. John’s University graduate Rachel Daly of Houston Dash, and Raquel Rodriguez, who completed her first year in NWSL with Sky Blue FC.

Rounding out the award nominees is Paul Riley. The head coach of Western New York Flash is a finalist for league Coach of the Year. Riley for years has had strong ties to the Long Island Soccer Community through the Paul Riley Soccer School as well as coaching stints with Long Island Rough Riders and LIU Post.

It has been a big year for Long who was a member of the 2016 Olympic Women’s Soccer Team. In NWSL, she scored six goals including braces in wins over Houston on September 7 and Sky Blue FC on September 25, the latter of which helped Portland capture its first-ever NWSL Shield.

Menges was a consistent presence on the pitch, playing every minute of Portland’s 20 matches this season. She was an integral part of a defense that had a 0.95 goals against average, becoming only the third team in league history to allow less than one goal per game (joining the 2013 Flash and 2014 Seattle Reign).

The No. 6 pick in the 2016 NWSL Draft, Daly was described by Houston coach Randy Waldrum as a “steal” after selecting the former St. John’s star. She finished her rookie season with four goals and four assists and was called into the England women’s national team by head coach Mark Sampson for Euro 2017 qualifying matches.

Rodriguez joined Sky Blue FC after winning the NCAA College Cup and Hermann Trophy at Penn State University. The Costa Rica international was the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. On the season, Rodriguez logged 1,461 minutes, making 17 starts over 18 appearances for Sky Blue FC.

Riley enjoyed a successful first season with the Western New York Flash as he guided a group of young players that finished seventh in 2015 to a fourth place finish and a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. He joined the club after two seasons as head coach of Portland Thorns FC. During the season, Western New York set league records for the most goals scored over both a six-game span (19) and seven-game span (22).