Alyssa Thompson picked No.1 by Angel City FC

Angel City FC selected 18-year-old striker Alyssa Thompson as their first overall pick on Thursday in the 2023 NWSL Draft.

Thompson, a senior at Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles, becomes the first high schooler to be drafted first place in NWSL history.

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“It’s really surreal,” Thompson told ESPN. “I’m honored to be mentioned along with the other top picks like Naomi Girma, Sophia Smith, Andi Sullivan. They’re all amazing players and for me to be another name on this list is so cool to me.

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

After Thompson’s selection, NY/NJ Gotham FC traded the current No. 2 pick to Kansas City in exchange for USWNT player Lynn Williams, and the current used that pick against Duke forward Michelle Cooper. Orlando Pride selected Florida State defender Emily Madril at No. 3 and Gotham FC used the No. 4 pick to take teammate Jenna Nighswonger, a central midfielder.

Angel City finally acquired the pick used on Thompson in a three-team trade last week with the Portland Thorns and NY/NJ Gotham FC, swapping the club’s 2023 first-round pick (No. 5), their first draft pick. second round in 2024 and the allocation money to acquire midfielder Yazmeen Ryan from the Thorns.

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

“It’s an incredible statement we’re making bringing Alyssa to Angel City as the No. 1 pick, and also what we did to get the No. 1 pick. Because we didn’t have that,” Angela , Angel City general manager Hucles Mangano told ESPN.

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

Thompson, who won the 2021 Gatorade National Women’s Soccer Player of the Year award, made her national team debut in September at the age of 17. In the 83rd minute in a friendly against England, Thompson replaced Megan Rapinoe and earned her first international cap.

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

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Hucles Mangano added: “She’s a player who can impact the moment, who can uplift our environment, bring us closer to those goals of winning a championship much sooner than a long-term strategy.

“And she has years ahead of her; she’s a player who can continue to develop. She’s our phenomenon, a generational player who can come to Angel City. … For us, that was a no-brainer.”

Thompson, who has verbally committed to playing at Stanford next year, said her decision to play professionally was difficult. Just days before the NWSL draft entry deadline last week, and after much deliberation with her family, Thompson said she’s decided to turn pro. She had been communicating with Angel City for a few 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 was going to be best right now.”

Thompson told ESPN that his decision was largely based on the ability to pursue higher education while playing professionally, something Angel City have been emphasizing since their first talks.

“From the beginning, it’s always been something that if I want to go pro, I’m still going to go to school,” Thompson said. “I want to keep improving, and since there’s still the possibility of going to college, why wouldn’t I?”

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According to Thompson’s parents, the decision to turn pro became easier once there was a tentative path to playing professionally while pursuing an education. Thompson’s father, Mario, added that they are still working on the plan and where Thompson will attend classes next year, but steps to make it a reality are underway.

Once the NWSL season kicks off on March 25, Thompson will take online classes to complete his senior year of high school and attend in-person classes at Harvard-Westlake when his schedule permits.

When it comes to supporting not only the rest of his senior year, but also his graduate studies, Angel City said that although they are only in their second year, they want to set the standard in s ensuring the club supports its players on and off the pitch.

“We are really very intentional and want to be this club and this environment that no matter who you are, no matter what stage you are at in your career, you have the opportunity to develop yourself,” said Hucles Mangano. .

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

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

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

“I was shocked because I’ve never been to a game like this, especially for women’s football. The fans were so loud and there’s a whole section of fans,” Thompson said. “I was able to see everything up close, and it was awesome to watch.”

It was also, according to Thompson, one of the first times she considered what it would be like to play for her home team.

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

Despite not making the NWSL playoffs last season, Angel City played ahead of four sellouts and averaged 19,105 fans for its 11 home games.

With the possible return this spring of Christen Press, who tore an ACL last season, and an all-star roster that includes one of Thompson’s idols, Sydney Leroux, Angel City told ESPN they expect what Thompson quickly adapts to the professional environment and competes right away. for departure time.

“I expect her to come and compete,” said Hucles Mangano. “She’s going to start helping raise the bar for everybody with her competitive nature. And that’s exactly what we want to create and what we want to have in terms of culture because that’s what we need to create and become that championship type of team.”

On the court, Thompson said she was confident in her ability to play one-on-one, thanks to countless hours of training with her younger sister and young national team defender Gisele Thompson.

“Hopefully I can be a goalscorer for them, that I can continue to improve and grow as a player,” said Thompson, who compares her game to France’s Kylian Mbappe.

“I think with my speed I might be able to beat defenders on the wing anywhere on the front line, run behind the back line as well, run past defenders, shoot a lot, so to be able to create scoring chances, to help a lot of my team-mates and to be able, if I lose the ball, to defend and come back so that we can be on the attack.”

Thompson, who remains a prospect for the United States Women’s National Team for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, says she knows the pressure that comes with being a No. 1 pick. But, she added, she feels “ready for this moment.”

“I worked hard for this, and I just have to remember that I can do this and I’m ready for this,” Thompson said. “Pressure makes diamonds, so I just hope I’ll thrive.”

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