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Alyssa Thompson selected as No. 1 by Angel City FC

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

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

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“It’s honestly surreal,” Thompson told ESPN. “I am honored to be mentioned with the other first picks like Naomi Girma, Sophia Smith and Andi Sullivan. All of them are incredible players and for me to be another name on that list is really cool for me.

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

After Thompson’s selection, 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. Orlando Pride selected Florida State defenseman Emily Madril in third place, and Gotham FC used the fourth pick to select her teammate Jenna Nighswonger, center midfielder.

Angel City ended up acquiring the used pick on Thompson in a three-team trade last week with the Portland Thorns and NY/NJ Gotham FC, trading the club’s 2023 first-round pick (No. round 2024 and allocate 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, finalizing the deal. The Thorns used Angel City’s acquired #5 pick on Alabama midfielder Reyna Reyes, the 2022 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

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

“We wanted to look at both the short term and the 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 Women’s Soccer Player of the Year award, made her national team debut in September at age 17. In the 83rd minute, during a friendly against England, Thompson replaced Megan Rapinoe and won her first cap.

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

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Hucles Mangano added: “She is a player who can impact the now, who can elevate our environment, bring us closer to the goals of winning a championship much sooner than a long-term strategy.

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

Thompson, who verbally committed to playing at Stanford next year, said his decision to play professionally was a difficult one. Just days before the NWSL draft registration deadline last week, and after much deliberation with his family, Thompson said he has decided to turn professional. She had been communicating with Angel City for the last 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 comes down to what will be best in the moment right now.”

Thompson told ESPN that his decision depended in large part on his ability to pursue a higher education while playing professionally, something Angel City has emphasized since their initial conversations.

“From the beginning, it was always something that, if I was a professional, I would still have an education,” Thompson said. “I want to keep improving, and since there’s still opportunity to go to college, why wouldn’t I?”

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According to Thompson’s parents, the decision to turn professional became more streamlined when there was an attempt to play professionally while graduating. 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 that a reality are ongoing.

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

When it comes to supporting not only the rest of their senior year, but their higher education as well, Angel City said that despite only being in their second year, they want to set the bar to ensure the club is supporting its players on and off. from Camp. field.

“We are definitely very intentional and we want to be that club and that environment where, no matter who you are, no matter what stage of your career you are at, you have the opportunity to develop,” said Hucles Mangano.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite not making the NWSL playoffs last season, Angel City played in front of four sold-out tickets and averaged 19,105 fans in their 11 home games.

With the possible return this spring of Christen Press, who tore an ACL last season, and an all-star roster including one of Thompson’s idols, Sydney Leroux, Angel City told ESPN they hope Thompson adjusts quickly to the professional environment and compete immediately. for start time.

“The expectation I have is that she will compete”, said Hucles Mangano. “She’s going to start to help raise the bar for everyone else with her competitive nature. And that’s exactly what we want to create and what we want to have in terms of our culture, because that’s what we need to create and become this championship type. of team.”

On the field, Thompson said he is confident in his ability to play one-on-one thanks to countless hours practicing with his younger sister and youth team defender Gisele Thompson.

“I hope I can score goals for them, continue to improve and grow as a player,” said Thompson, who compares her game to France’s Kylian Mbappé.

“I think with my speed I could beat the defenders on the wings anywhere in the front line, run behind the defense line too, tackle the defenders, shoot a lot, so I could create goalscoring chances, assist a lot of my teammates and power , if I lose the ball, defend and come back so we can attack.”

Thompson, who remains hopeful for the US women’s team at the 2023 World Cups in New Zealand and Australia, says she knows the pressure of being the first pick. But she added that she feels “ready for this moment”.

“I worked really hard for this and I just have to remind myself that I can do this and I’m ready for this,” Thompson said. “Pressure makes diamonds, so I just hope it thrives.”

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