USC soccer steals show in 2017 NWSL Draft

After being selected in the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League draft on Thursday, five USC women’s soccer players will join the professional ranks of soccer.

Seniors Morgan Andrews, Kayla Mills, Mandy Freeman, Katie Johnson and Sammy Jo Prudhomme were all in attendance at the draft ceremony, and it did not take long for the reigning national champions to hear their names called. 

Steven Kramer | Daily Trojan

Andrews was selected in the first round with the No. 3 overall pick by the Boston Breakers, while Mills (No. 4 overall) and Freeman (No. 10 overall) will become teammates once again for Sky Blue FC. Johnson was taken with the No. 16 overall pick by Seattle Reign FC, and Prudhomme was selected No. 31 overall by the Boston Breakers.

After transferring from Notre Dame as a junior, Andrews became one of the most decorated players to ever play at USC. She finished her USC career as a 2016 finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best collegiate soccer player.

In her senior season, Andrews tied for the team scoring lead with 10 goals and added four assists en route to helping USC capture the program’s second-ever national championship. Andrews will likely make an immediate impact in the midfield for the Breakers, who finished 10th in the NWSL standings last season. After being selected No. 3 overall, Andrews is the highest-ever USC player taken in the NWSL draft.

Andrews will be joined by Prudhomme, who took first pick in the fourth round (No. 31 overall). The talented transfer keeper finished a standout senior season as the 2016 Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year.

In her final game at the NCAA College Cup, Prudhomme tallied eight big saves to help USC win the title and earned All-Tournament Team honors. Her .906 save percentage ranked fifth nationally, and she led the Pac-12 by only allowing nine goals in 19 games this season. Prudhomme was just one of three goalkeepers taken in the draft.

Mills and Freeman will also head to the East Coast, making their home in New Jersey with Sky Blue FC. A steady four-year starter for the Trojans, Mills was named to the All Pac-12 First Team three years in a row. She was also named to the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy Award in 2016 and won the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.

As a converted forward turned defensive midfielder, she will likely play left back for her new team. Her speed and strength along the flanks will allow her to fill a big need for Sky Blue.

Freeman was selected by Sky Blue FC with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round. This season, she led the defense to 16 shutouts and won the 2016 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.  Like Mills, Freeman was a four-year starter and played positions ranging from defensive midfield to center back. A highly coveted player, Freeman will shore up Sky Blue FC’s defense as the pair joins former USC goalkeeper Caroline Stanley in New Jersey.

The final Trojan will head to Seattle Reign, a powerhouse program bolstered by players such as U.S. star midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Johnson was the fourth Trojan to be selected in the draft at No. 16 overall to Seattle Reign FC. Johnson was the 2016 NCAA College Cup Hero, as her three goals in two games helped propel USC to an upset over top-ranked West Virginia in the national final.

Her goal-scoring prowess and international experience competing in 2016 Rio Olympics Qualifications with the Mexican National Team was invaluable to the Trojan’s success. This depth of experience will allow her to make significant contributions for a Seattle Reign team that finished fifth in the regular season last year.

NWSL play will kick off in April, with the newly drafted seniors joining their new teams after graduation. From there, these former Trojans will begin to live out their life-long dreams of becoming professional athletes.