NWSL: A look at 2021 MVP Jess Fishlock’s season

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Jessica Fishlock of Wales arrives before the Women's World Cup qualifier between Wales Women and England Women at Rodney Parade on August 31, 2018 in Newport, Wales. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Following an amazing regular season, OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock has been named NWSL MVP for the 2021 season.

The Welsh international tallied five goals and four assists for the Reign during the regular season. However, her value is measured far beyond the score sheet.

The epitome of a box-to-box midfielder, Fishlock showcases her experience and intelligence. She has tremendous field vision, and is able to direct both offensive and defensive tactics for her side. Two diametrically opposed plays this season demonstrate the versatility of the MVP.

The first came in an offensive show of strength from the Reign. Facing the Houston Dash midway through the season, the Reign had a commanding 3-1 win just before half-time. As teammate Eugenie Le Somer brought the ball up the wing, Fishlock ran through the middle. After receiving the pass from her winger, the midfielder took a few strides, looked up and saw no one challenging her. From about five metres outside the box, Fishlock unloaded a screamer that found the top corner.

The second comes from a late season tilt against the Washington Spirit. The Spirit’s Trinity Rodman broke in on Reign keeper Sarah Bouhaddi and slid the ball underneath her for what looked like a sure goal. At the last moment, Fishlock came flying in and cleared the ball off the line to save a goal for her side.

This play earned her NWSL Save of the Week, and showed her hustle at both ends of the field.

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What next for Jess Fishlock?

At 34 years, Fishlock becomes the oldest player to receive the honour — a testament to the value of experience.

As a Reign original, she has been part of the Seattle franchise from the beginning of the NWSL in 2013. She becomes the second Reign player to be named MVP, following Scottish international Kim Little in 2014. This also marks the fourth time in eight selections that the league MVP has come from outside of the United States.

With this affirmation of her ability to still play top quality football at the highest level, Fishlock has choices to make in the off-season.

She heads back to Wales for two World Cup qualifying matches in this international break. The Welsh will face Greece and France on their quest to make Australia/New Zealand 2023. Wales currently sit second in their group, two points behind France.

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Beyond the national team, nothing is yet set in stone for the midfielder. Her contract with the Reign is up, but both sides are working on it. Fishlock has played all over the world in her storied career, so will she choose to explore different shores once again?

No matter where the future brings her, one thing is certain. Along with her MBE, she has earned this title: Jess Fishlock — NWSL MVP.

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