Metal balls dropping in New York, countdown clocks ticking down all around the world, dragon imagery dancing through streets, firecrackers, lots of red, and Jessica Berman opening proceedings from Anaheim, California. These are just a few of the things signifying the new year as we shed 2023, and welcome even more chaos and adventure in 2024. Angel City FC came into the draft lacking picks in the first two rounds, and looking to fill holes left by recent departures. Having to wait so long to make a pick, the club knew they had to be deliberate and intentional wit their picks, not just acquiring talent, but selecting players that would fit the culture, develop, and thrive in whatever roles await this upcoming season. Looking back at the draft, it appears Angel City were able to do just that.
— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) January 13, 2024
Last year, Angel City pulled off a three-team trade of sorts that saw them send a couple of draft picks, and the recently acquired Yazmeen Ryan away, in return for the number one pick in the 2023 draft, that saw them eventually take rising superstar, Alyssa Thompson. This year, the team had a relatively quiet draft day in Anaheim, having to wait until the third round before making their selection. While the team may have missed out on the household names taken in the first round, there was still plenty of solid talent left in what was the deepest draft pool we have seen entering the NWSL.
Despite having to wait three rounds before a pick, it was pretty clear throughout the draft that it was a home event for Angel City and their incredible supporters. Not just making their voices heard with chants, but with every trade Berman announced that didn’t involve their beloved ACFC, supporters made clear their immense disappointment.
I have been informed this crowd noise was ACFC fans and I’m dying lol pic.twitter.com/uC1oCdWy2F
— Douglas Reyes-Ceroñ (@dreyesceron) January 13, 2024
After 36 picks, it was time for LA to make their selection. Prior to the draft, Angel City FC GM Angela Hucles Mangano spoke to us about the team’s approach going into the draft, and what they were looking for. “We’re looking at specific positional needs. That also helps us be very selective with targeting, which actually winds up being helpful” said Hucles Mangano. She also spoke about the need to be intentional with selections, and with the biggest team need being the midfield, it’s safe to say they were really intentional in the selections they did make. The 37th pick was a midfielder, Felicia Knox, a record-setter out of Alabama.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to go to a team that is willing to invest in me and my development, and Angel City is exactly that club,” stated Knox after being selected. “You can see how much the fans are invested in this club and I’m really eager to get started. I am their first pick of this Draft and so I am ready to come in and help the team in any way I can. New start, new adventure, and I am excited to get started with Angel City.”
Knox set multiple records for the program in single-season assists, single-season assists per game, and career assists. Knox finished her career ranked seventh nationally for career assists (31) and 22nd nationally in assists per game (0.36). She scored 18 goals and served up 31 assists in her 87 appearances. She also had the team-high for game-winning goals (4). To top it off, Knox was also captain for the US National Futsal Team in 2014, 2015, and 2016, which means you know she has undeniable tekkers. Depending on how much time she sees on the pitch, this is a player that might very well find herself competing for the 10.
— Angel City FC (@weareangelcity) January 13, 2024
The addressing of needs continued with the next pick, as the team selected another midfielder, Jessica Garziano, from St. John’s University. “We’ve watched Jessica, and she is very suited for the NWSL,” stated ACFC First Assistant Coach Eleri Earnshaw. “Everyone has spoken so highly of her. Not just on her ability, but also her leadership, maturity, and readiness to make an impact in this league.”
ACFC GM Angela Hucles Mangano spoke to us about leaning on the coaching staff during this draft, “I’ve been very impressed with the coaching staff, they’ve been the ones driving the charge with this draft, with preparations, the detailed conversations, scouting, looking at film on different players.” Garziano seems like one of those picks that the entire coaching staff was sold on, not just with the talent, but the always important, personality fit within the club.
Garziano finished her collegiate career with 22 goals and 32 assists in 83 starts with a total of 90 appearances. In 2022, she earned selections to the All-Big East Second Team, United Soccer Coaches All-East Region Third Team, and United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-East Region Team. Garziano is a box-to-box midfielder with an incredibly high ceiling. The type of player coaches can definitely mold into one of the league’s best over time. She is also an incredibly accurate passer, not just with assists, but in the run of play as well, making her a perfect depth addition for a club that should see plenty of rotation throughout the season.
— Angel City FC (@weareangelcity) January 13, 2024
The final pick in the draft for Angel City wasn’t a midfielder, but rather some depth for the defense. SoCal native defender, Madison Curry, out of Princeton, was taken with the team’s 51st pick. Curry finished her time at Princeton making 48 starts in 51 appearances, and despite being a defender, found the back of the net three times and had four assists. She achieved three First Team All-Ivy league selections, as well as being selected to the United Soccer Coaches Third Team All-American, and All East Region Second Team in the 2023 season. Curry was also a key role in Princeton’s six shutouts this season.
The club may not have had a flashy, household name to take home from the draft like last season, but they did secure three incredibly talented young players. Addressing the team’s needs with two midfielders who, while playing the same position, appear to have completely different styles of play (which is a great thing). As well as adding some depth defensively with a player that feels league-ready already, who will only improve under the likes of Sarah Gorden, Ali Riley, and Paige Nielsen, while growing alongside a player like Gisele Thompson. This is a class that with a little nurturing, and some match action, could make a big impact for the club in years to come.
Thoughts on the draft picks? Leave a comment below!