Jan 11, 2024 - Sports

SD Wave's Naomi Girma voted 2023 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year

San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma prepares to kick a ball on the field.

San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma at Snapdragon Stadium. Photo: Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

San Diego Wave FC's Naomi Girma was named the 2023 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year on Thursday.

The intrigue: Girma, 23, is the first true defender and the second Black player to win the distinction in its 39-year history.

How it works: Votes for the award are collected from National Team coaches, National Team players who earned a cap in 2023, members of the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, U.S. Soccer Athletes' Council, National Women's Soccer League head coaches, members of the media and administrators.

State of play: Girma looks to be the future of Team USA as an anchor on the backline, playing every minute in her debut at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

  • She started all 16 games she played with the USWNT, helping lead the defense to its lowest ever goals against average in a calendar year.
  • She was previously named the National Women's Soccer League Rookie of the Year, back-to-back Defender of the Year, and helped the Wave win the NWSL Shield as regular season champions in 2023.

What they're saying: "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 an historic year for our defense," Girma said in a statement.

Catch up quick: A standout and NCAA national champion at Stanford University, Girma was drafted first overall by the Wave in 2022 and has been a critical component of the team's success.

  • In June, Girma signed a three-year extension to stay in San Diego, "securing her long-term future was a priority for the club," Wave general manager Molly Downtain said at the time.

Worthy of your time: Girma has used her platform to advocate for mental health support, particularly for young athletes.

  • She helped launch an initiative that dedicated broadcast coverage to the growing crisis during the World Cup and sent mental health professionals to work with youth sports organizations across the U.S.

What's next: The San Diego Wave will face defending NWSL Champion NJ/NY Gotham FC in the 2024 NWSL Challenge Cup on March 15 ahead of regular season kick off March 16.

  • The match will stream live on Prime Video.
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