Alyssa Thompson picked No. 1 by Angel City FC

Angel City FC selected 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson with the first overall pick in the 2023 NWSL draft on Thursday.

Thompson, a student at Harvard Westlake in Los Angeles, becomes the first high school player to be drafted No. 1 in NWSL history.

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“It’s honestly really surreal,” Thompson told ESPN. “I’m honored to be mentioned with other first team picks like Naomi Girma, Sophie Smith, Andy Sullivan. They’re all great players and it’s so cool to be another name on that list.

“I never would have thought, even a year ago, that I would be the first high school student to hold this position.”

Following Thompson’s pick, NY/NJ Gotham FC traded the No. 2 pick to the Kansas City Current in exchange for USWNT player Lynn Williams, and the Current used that pick on Duke forward Michelle Cooper. The Orlando Pride selected Florida State defender Emily Madrilla with the No. 3 pick, while Gotham FC used the No. 4 pick to take teammate Jenna Nygswonger, a central midfielder.

After all, the Angel City acquired the pick used for Thompson in a three-team trade last week with the Portland Thorns and NY/NJ Gotham FC in exchange for the club’s 2023 first-round pick (No. 5), a 2024 second-round pick and cash for midfielder Yazmeen Ryan for acquisition from Thorns.

Angel City then sent Ryan and an additional $250,000 in allocation money to Gotham FC for the first overall pick, completing the deal. The Thorns used the No. 5 pick on Angel City, Alabama linebacker Rayne Reyes, the 2022 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s an incredible statement that we’re making by bringing Alice to Angel City as our No. 1, and what we did to get No. 1. Because we didn’t have one,” Angel City General Manager Angela. Hucles Mangano told ESPN.

“We wanted to look both short-term and long-term in our strategy … so being able to bring in a player like Alyssa allows us to do all of that.”

Thompson, who won the 2021 Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year, made her national team debut in September as a 17-year-old. In a friendly against England, Thompson stepped up to Megan Rapinoe in the 83rd minute and earned her. first international cap.

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Last June, Thompson and her younger sister Giselle made history as the first female high school athletes to sign name, image and likeness contracts with Nike.

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Hucles Mangano added: “She is a player who can affect the present, who can improve our environment, bring us closer to the goals of winning the championship much faster than the long-term strategy.

“And she has years ahead of her; she’s a player that can continue to develop. She’s our phenom, a generational player that can come into Angel City. … It was nothing for us.”

Thompson, who verbally committed to play at Stanford next year, said her decision to play professionally was a difficult one. Just days before the NWSL draft registration deadline last week, and after much deliberation with her family, Thompson said she had decided to turn pro. She had been in contact with Angel City for the past couple of months.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Thompson said. “But at the end of the day, I think it came down to what’s going to be best right now.”

Thompson told ESPN that her decision largely hinged on being able to get a higher education while playing professionally, which has been an emphasis at Angel City since their initial talks.

“It’s always been from the beginning that if I’m going to go pro, I’m still going to get an education,” Thompson said. “I want to keep getting better, and since there’s still an opportunity to go to college, why wouldn’t I?”

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According to Thompson’s parents, the decision to go pro became easier once he had the opportunity to play professionally while earning his degree. Thompson’s father, Mario, added that they are still working on the plan and where Thompson will attend classes next year, but steps are being taken to make it a reality.

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When the NWSL season begins March 25, Thompson will take online classes to finish her senior year of high school and attend in-person classes at Harvard-Westlake when her schedule allows.

When it comes to supporting not only the rest of her senior year, but also her post-secondary education, Angel City said that despite only being in their second year, they want to set the standard by making sure the club supports their players both in the game, both outside it. field.

“We’re definitely very intentional about wanting to be at that club and that environment where no matter who you are, no matter what stage you’re at in your career, you have an opportunity to grow,” Huckles Mangano said.

“It could be somebody at the end of their career; it could be somebody coming out of high school. But you still have an opportunity to develop. And I think that’s on and off the field.”

She added: “Understood where [the Thompson family] is something that was very easy for us to say that this is what Angel City wants to do for you, Alyssa. But also all our players.”

Thompson, a Los Angeles native, attended her first Angel City game as a fan last September. Watching Angel City take on Racing Louisville at their home stadium, Banc of California Stadium, Thompson sat in the stands with family and friends and was able to fully enjoy the Angel City experience.

“I was shocked because I’ve never been to a game like that, especially in women’s football. The fans were so loud and there’s a whole fan section there,” Thompson said. “I got to see everything up close and it was great to watch.”

It was also, according to Thompson, one of the first moments when she thought about what it would be like to play for her home team.

“Watching them, I was like, ‘Wow, it would be cool to play here.'” Thompson said. “And now knowing that I can play there in front of my family, friends and fans, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

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Despite missing the NWSL playoffs last season, Angel City played in front of four sellouts and averaged 19,105 fans in 11 home games.

With the potential return this spring of Kristen Press, who tore her ACL last season, and an all-star roster that includes one of Thompson’s idols, Sydney Leroux, the Angel City told ESPN they expect Thompson to adjust quickly to the professional environment and compete immediately. for the start time.

“I hope she comes in and competes,” Huckles Mangano said. “She’s going to start to help raise the bar for everybody else with her competitive nature. And that’s what we want to create and what we want to have in terms of our culture, because that’s what we need to build and become a championship. kind of team.”

On the court, Thompson said she is confident in her ability to go one-on-one thanks to countless hours spent with her younger sister and youth national team defender Gisele Thompson.

“I hope I can be a goal scorer for them, that I can continue to get better and continue to grow as a player,” said Thompson, who compares her game to France’s Kylian Mbappe.

“I think with my speed I could beat defenders on the wing in any front line, run behind the back line, take on defenders, shoot a lot, so I was able to create goalscoring opportunities, assist a lot to my teammates and the ability to defend and come back if I lose the ball , so we can be on the attack.”

Thompson, who remains a hopeful for the 2023 U.S. Women’s World Cup squad in New Zealand and Australia, says she knows the pressure of being the No. 1 pick. But she added that she feels “ready for this moment.”

“I’ve put a lot of hard work into this and I just have to remind myself that I can do it and I’m ready for it,” Thompson said. “Pressure makes diamonds, so I just hope I thrive.”


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