The 2016-17 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Soccer Teams were selected based on performance, level of competition and strength of schedule. Players from states that play fall, winter or spring soccer were eligible for selection.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Joe Finocchiaro, Glastonbury (Conn.)
Name: Kennedy Wesley
School: Valley Christian (Cerritos, Calif.)
Kennedy Wesley is a natural defender. That’s where she plays for the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Women’s National Team and the SoCal Blues, one of the nation’s top club programs. But for Valley Christian (Cerritos, Calif.) this winter, she was a box-to-box midfielder, controlling the flow of the game and turning defense into offense.
Wesley is one of the most highly regarded youth soccer players in the country, and she led Valley Christian to new heights, earning herself American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors.
“I am ultimately more comfortable as a defender. That’s where I play everywhere except for my high school,” Wesley told USA TODAY High School Sports. “However, I am more than willing to step in where the team needs me at any point throughout the game.”
She finished the season with 22 goals and nine assists as Valley Christian won the California Southern Section Division 6 tournament title for the first time in 10 years, beating Grace Brethren (Simi Valley), 3-1. Wesley scored two goals and had one assist.
The Crusaders (25-3-3) then claimed the Southern California Division V Regional tournament crown for the first time in school history, this time beating Grace Brethren, 2-1. Wesley scored both goals. In eight postseason games, the 5-foot-6 dynamo tallied 10 goals and four assists.
“Kennedy is a player that has a contagious passion for the game,” Valley Christian coach Kim Looney said. “When Kennedy gives everything, her team gives everything. Kennedy makes her teammates better and her team better. She is the definition of a team player.”
Wesley is the No. 1 rated recruit in the Class of 2019 by TopDrawerSoccer.com and she has already committed to attend Stanford after graduation.
Wesley missed seven games during the regular season because of various national team commitments, but she was always 100 percent committed when she suited up for the Crusaders.
“I think there is a totally different vibe to high school soccer,” she said. “The fans coming out on a Friday night and getting to play alongside some of my best friends I get to go to school with is really one of the most fun experiences of the year. I also really enjoy representing my school, the community around it and God all in such a fun, laid-back way.”
Wesley scored at least one goal in 17 of her 24 games, including goals in seven of the Crusaders’ eight playoff games. That should hardly come as a surprise from a player who always knew when to get the team involved and when to take things on her own shoulders.
“When you have a team player at that level and caliber who is not selfish and that everything flows through, you have a different kind of game changer,” Maranatha School coach Rob Gurule said. “Kennedy changes the belief and confidence of the entire team. When that happens, players at [Wesley’s] level can orchestrate and then choose her moments as a soloist.”
That belief and confidence are among Wesley’s best traits, she said, and she knows how to raise her game when the stakes are highest.
“I think my mentality separates me from other players,” Wesley said. “I am willing to get into tackles and put my body on the line if it’s what is best for the team. I am also able to easily get into a different mindset if the game is on the line.”
LOOKBACK: 2015-16 ALL-USA Girls Soccer Team