The end of the year continues to get better and better for NJ/NY Gotham FC. The ladies are heading to their first NWSL Championship after beating Portland Thorns FC in the semifinals. Juan Carlos Amorós was named the Coach of the Year. Ali Krieger, Lynn Williams, and Jenna Nighswonger were on the Best XI teams.
Jenna Nighswonger is the Rookie of the Year
The recognition is not finished, though. On Thursday, the NWSL announced that Nighswonger is the 2023 Rookie of the Year. The first-year player has been vital to Gotham FC's quest for the playoffs after finishing the season in last place a year ago. The honor is well-deserved, for she has defied expectations.
More importantly, Nighswonger is a midfielder by trade. Injuries to the Gotham backline caused the player to move into the full-back position. The idea of moving someone in their first professional year to a position they are not familiar with is not something one would expect. Yet, Amorós had faith in Nighswonger, and she delivered.
Plus, she is an attacking midfielder. Hence, going from the offense to the defense can be difficult. Still, she adjusted extremely well to her new role and showed everyone she could play as a defender.
Defensively, she won 35 of her tackles, which was first among rookies. She also had 18 interceptions and won 78 duels. Nighswonger's ability to track opposing players was on display throughout the season. She is not afraid to take risks, which is probably why she led the NWSL with six yellow cards.
Since the 22-year-old is naturally an attacking player, the attacking aspect of her full-back role was not an issue. She was a constant threat heading up the wings. Her three goals illuminate she is a goal-scorer regardless of where she plays on the pitch.
Moreover, Gotham knows Nighswonger can play in numerous positions. Thus, she can be utilized in multiple ways within the Starting XI, allowing for flexibility with the lineup.
The future is bright for Nighswonger. She can become a star not only for NJ/NY Gotham FC, but also in the NWSL.