The National Women's Soccer League concluded the Fall Series over the weekend and now the focus shifts to the upcoming expansion draft in November and plans for the new season. The league returned to play in September following the successful Challenge Cup tournament over the summer where Houston Dash were crowned champions in Utah.
At the conclusion of Challenge Cup the league announced Fall Series in an effort to hold more competitive games to close out the year. Similar to Challenge Cup, players were presented with an option to participate or withdraw due to concerns over a pandemic. While a number of players made the choice to opt out, they received support of the league and did not face any implications regarding their contracts.
More matches meant more opportunities for players deeper on the rosters, and for others to continue building on their Challenge Cup performances. There is a mix of U.S. national team players, internationals, club veterans, and draftees looking to make their debuts across all rosters. Here's a look at five players to who stood out during the Fall Series.
1. Ifeoma Onumonu, forward, Sky Blue FC
The 25-year-old is coming off her first year with Sky Blue FC after being acquired via trade from OL Reign back in January. The team made a number of moves during the offseason in order to prepare for the season ahead of the coronavirus pandemic changing the course of soccer landscape. They added key players in McCall Zerboni and USWNT forward Mallory Pugh, but adding a player like Onumonu is ultimately what has signaled a change in the top line for the team moving forward. Her one assist and constant work off the ball during Challenge Cup provided a blueprint for the forward transitioning into Fall Series where she scored three goals over four starts.
2. Simone Charley, forward, Portland Thorns FC
The Thorns features all time international scorer Christine Sinclair, and the team added a pair of 2020 first round draft selections in Morgan Weaver and number one pick Sophia Smith. For Charley, the 25-year-old forward is in her second year with the Thorns after putting together some strong individual performances in 2019 during a World Cup stretch of games in NWSL. Her skill on the ball and ability to take on defenders one v one has been on display during Fall Series in her 4 game appearances and 3 starts. Her skill set allows her movement to be fluid across the top line, connecting on crosses for her teammates out wide, or scoring on goal. Charley scored one goal with two shots on target.
3. Marissa Viggiano, midfielder, Orlando Pride
The Northwestern product is in her second year with the Orlando Pride after being drafted back in 2019. She was featured in 19 matches -- earning 14 starts -- in her rookie campaign and scored one goal as she was largely tasked with providing tempo and tackles in games. Orlando Pride withdrew from the Challenge Cup due to a string of positive COVID-19 test results and the Fall Series provided the team with their first opportunity to play competitive NWSL matches this year. Viggiano started in all four games and scored two goals with two shots on target. Her ability connect the midfield with the top line has proven pivotal and her defensive work on the ball led to five interceptions during the Fall Series.
4. Tziarra King, forward, Utah Royals FC
King, who cracked the All-ACC teams in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, was a name to watch coming out of the 2020 draft class. She made 88 appearances for NC State, scoring 48 goals. She's a former track star who has the ability to make things difficult for defenders in a foot race, but it's her technicality and dribbling that stretched back lines in 2020. She scored a goal in her debut game during the Challenge Cup, and scored another during Fall Series over her four starts with five shots on target.
5 Bianca St. Georges, defender, Chicago Red Stars
The Quebec product out of West Virginia was drafted by the Red Stars in 2019 with the 20th overall pick. Her arrival to Chicago in 2019 did not include time on the pitch, as she was rehabbing from injury, and an unforeseen pandemic in 2020 got in the way of her rookie debut. St. Georges impressed in her starts during the Challenge Cup, winning one-on-one battles and scored for the Red Stars in the semifinal. She made four appearances in three starts for Chicago during the Fall Series. The outside back has been active for Chicago on the flanks, and had a 74 percent success rate on her tackles during the competition.