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NWSL Week 3: 6 standout players from the six thrilling matches

Apr 1, 2023; Harrison, New Jersey, USA; OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce (91) makes a save against New Jersey/New York Gotham FC during the second half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 of the NWSL produced some of the most thrilling action of the season, as each club looked to come out of the international break on the right foot.

The theme of the week was nail-biting finishes. Whether it was a four-goal draw in Los Angeles or a stoppage-time winner in Seattle, the competitiveness across this league is apparent. A struggling Orlando side fought NJ/NY Gotham FC to the bitter end on home soil before falling short in an extensive period of extra time. Kansas City Current continues their disappointing start while the Washington Spirit are taking nearly everyone by surprise sitting second in the table after three weeks. Only four unbeaten teams remain as San Diego Wave saw its winning run come to a close at the hands of OL Reign.

The goal count may have gone down by three compared to the week prior, but this had to be the most riveting weekend of soccer so far this season. Amid all the broadcast technical difficulties and NWSL after dark magic, there were players around the league that shined above the rest.

6 standout players from week 3 of the NWSL.

1. Phallon Tullis-Joyce, OL Reign

In a back-and-forth match that was truly all keepers, Phallon Tullis-Joyce showed up big time for the Reign. The keeper kept up her all-star performance from last season, stopping major chances from the Wave. This included two breakaway Alex Morgan runs, with Tullis-Joyce coming out to prevent big-time goalscoring opportunities.

The bravery it takes to step to Alex Morgan charging at full speed is impressive in itself, and Tullis-Joyce deserves all the credit for keeping a clean sheet for the Reign. She also reached a milestone on Saturday, tying for the most all-time clean sheets for the Reign with eleven. It’s likely to assume she’ll set a new record this season with twelve clean sheets, but only time will tell.

2. Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave

It would be amiss to acknowledge Tullis-Joyce without visiting the other end of the pitch to bring Kalien Sheridan her well-deserved recognition. Even though the Wave fell to the Reign by one, Sheridan deserves credit for keeping the scoreline that low.

She made spectacular saves against the Reign, stopping two Megan Rapinoe rockets and an incredible Bethany Balcer header. She stayed vigilant the whole time, guiding her backline and proving why she earned the 2022 Goalkeeper of the Year honors. Sheridan is incredibly valuable to the Wave, making the highlight reel every week with exceptional saves and backline leadership.

3. Penelope Hocking, Chicago Red Stars

The rookie showed up for the Red Stars this week, answering the Mallory Swanson question with a resounding brace for Chicago. Hocking scored her first professional goal in the 49th minute, but she wasn’t satisfied with just one, going for her second in the 67th minute.

It’s the rookie’s first brace of her career, making her the second Red Stars player in history to score a brace within her first three NWSL appearances. Hocking has had an exceptional first few games and is definitely a rookie to keep your eye on as the race for Rookie of the Year gets going.

— Oliver Hunt, @OliverHunt13

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