Friday February 19th, 2016

HOUSTON — After Carli Lloyd, U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn may well have been the best player of last year’s Women’s World Cup. She was a quiet force in central defense, nearly perfect in her positioning, and a big reason why the U.S. conceded just three goals in the entire tournament.

But when FIFA’s Technical Study Group named 23 World Cup All-Stars, Sauerbrunn’s name wasn’t on it. Nor was Sauerbrunn on FIFA’s 10-player longlist for 2015 World Player of the Year.

And on Thursday, when exclusively revealed the inaugural FIFPro Women’s World XI from 2015, guess who was missing? Yep, Sauerbrunn. Again.

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If you watched all the games in 2015, Sauerbrunn’s continued omission from recognition is odd, bordering on bizarre. But it’s a continuing trend whether the voters are FIFA’s supposed technical experts or players from around the world. So it seemed worthwhile to ask Sauerbrunn’s U.S. teammates ahead of Friday’s Olympic qualifying decider against Trinidad and Tobago (NBCSN, 8:30 p.m. ET): Why does the player known as Broon go so constantly overlooked?

(It should be noted that her club play at FC Kansas City has been noticed–she is a three-time reigning NWSL Defender of the Year.)

“Well, Becky had my vote,” said Lloyd, who used to be under-recognized herself. “What people don’t realize is just how easy she makes things, and I think that might make people not recognize her as much out there. She doesn’t have to go to the ground very often, but if she needs to she will. She just is very smooth and very silky, very smart in what she does. But I voted for her. And I know that we as players [know] Becky doesn’t play the game of soccer for these awards. But I think at some point she should get the recognition she deserves. I know she’ll keep grinding away.”

U.S. coach Jill Ellis noted that Sauerbrunn, now a U.S. co-captain with Lloyd, may not stand out like some defenders because she rarely has to scramble to make a Hollywood-style tackle to save things. Her positioning is just that good.

“She reads the game so well,” Ellis said. “On the field she does just the simple things really well. But she’s essential to our back line. I don’t control these [awards], but I think it’s important that Becky knows her value to us. She’s an integral part of this team, not just the back line.”

Alex Morgan put things in stark terms: “Becky is one of the greatest defenders I’ve ever played against.”

Sauerbrunn herself wasn’t available to the media here on Thursday, and that was fine. She doesn’t embrace talking about herself very much, and in so doing she fits well into the overall culture of this U.S. team. But there was something appropriate about the absence of her voice in this story: Sauerbrunn doesn’t need to go out of her way to make a statement.

She makes it with her actions, game after game after game.

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