PHILADELPHIA, PA — The next time that you hear “go bears” in Chicago, it might not be Chicagoan supporting their football team; it just might be Cal alumni supporting the latest additions to the Chicago women’s soccer professional team. Already one of only two schools to have an alum on all four NWSL playoff teams last year, Cal Women’s Soccer just added two more Golden Bears to the NWSL, the women’s soccer professional league in the United States that will play its 6th year in 2018.
Combining for the Cal program record for the number of shutouts by a goalkeeper (which goes to the keeper Emily Boyd), two important factors for the recent Cal defensive successes were drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 NWSL Draft on Thursday morning. Both goalkeeper Emily Boyd and defender Indigo Gibson were drafted 15th and 18th overall, respectively by the Chicago Red Stars, one of the four teams in the 10 team NWSL league to make the playoff in 2017.
Although Philadelphia does not have a NWSL franchise (at the moment), the city of Brotherly Love was the site of the 2018 draft (the MLS Superdraft will also take place from Philly tomorrow). The college women’s soccer player of the year, midfielder Andi Sullivan of the defending NCAA champs Stanford, was the predictable first overall pick to the Washington Spirits. Somewhat disappointingly, only one of the first round pick, 5th overall pick Imani Dorsey out of Du,e by the Sky Blue FC, was present today.
On to the second round, it was not long before the pair of Golden Bears, part of probably 20 or so athletes to attend the draft, heard their names called. In a nice coincidence, Cal alum Mary Harvey got to announce the selection of Emily Boyd.
With their first pick of the 2018 NWSL draft, Chicago Red Stars made the reigning Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year, Emily Boyd, the 15th overall pick. Although the Red Stars currently have one of the two USWNT keeper in Alyssa Naeher, Boyd is going to a good place where she can be groomed to replace eventually Naeher on both the NWSL (and maybe also) the USWNT in the near future.
About looking forward to working with the strong goaltenders on the team: “Absolutely, playing with the best, you can only get better. It is great to be able to train with someone who is [currently the No.1 keeper with the USWNT team]. I have found that playing with people who are better than you, [is one way to] bring you up to their standard one day.”
About her talking with her past Cal teammates who are in the NWSL to prepare for this draft, since there are plenty of Cal Bears in the league.
“Yeah, there was some talks of [Boyd] being selected by Washington” so that she has discussed it with former teammate Arielle Ship. “I also have former teammates at Portland [Celeste Bouielle] and Boston [Ifeoma Onumonu] who are very excited for Indigo and I to be entering the draft this year.”
Boyd is also excited to keep her food blog alive at a great food city like Chicago. While a reporter tried to bait her into choosing between deep dish or thin crust, but she was wise enough to not take a side.
Boyd turned out to be the 2nd goalkeeper selected in this draft as Sky Blue FC, based out of New Jersey, took the local keeper in Rutger’s Casey Murphy two spots ahead.
Soon after the selection of Boyd, Chicago Red Stars used their next pick, 18th overall, on Boyd’s past and future teammate in defender Indigo Gibson.
All-American joins the Red Stars.— Chicago Red Stars (@chicagoredstars) January 18, 2018
Welcome to Chicago, Indigo Gibson. pic.twitter.com/DPrQK00FnY
Indigo Gibson: “[Two Cal Bears going to the same team in the same round] is amazing. Me and Em have an amazing connection on and off the field. It’s exciting. We have been dreaming of this since we are little.”
On her Cal pedigree, “We have a great program, great coaches that constantly help us on and off the national teams and off the field. [Having more Cal players in the NWSL] helps get [Cal] exposed to [future recruits] about how great the school is academically and athletically. We have a great school.”
On her future role, “Overall, I think I am still growing as a player. I think I have good soccer IQ and can be a good leader on the field. Wherever [the Red Stars] need me to be, I’ll be there.”
Being one of the best center back available in this draft, some had projected Gibson to be picked in the late first round.
Teammates and @CalWSoc alumni Emily Boyd and Indigo Gibson are drafted three picks apart in the 2nd round (15 and 18 overall) by the same team @chicagoredstars #GoBears #NWSLDraft pic.twitter.com/PoDhWylLXD— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) January 18, 2018
Congratulations to the two newest Chicago Red Stars.
Chicago actually have 6 picks in this 4 round draft (there are 10 teams, so 40 picks total). In addition to the Cal duo with their first two picks, their early picks have a strong West Coast flavor. The Red Stars picked Pepperdine’s midfielder Brianna Visalli (19th), midfielder Megan Buckingham from North Carolina (24th), defender Zoey Goralski from UCLA (27th) - who is a Chicago native, and midfield Alexa Ben from Depaul (37th).
While the Cal Bears didn’t have anyone selected in the first three iterations of the NWSL college draft, Sam Witteman, who just recently signed to play in Europe (PSV in Netherlands), was Cal’s 1st first round pick in 2016 (by the Orlando Pride as the 10th pick of the 1st round).
In the 2017 draft, Ifeoma Onumonu was a surprising 1st round pick (8th overall pick) by the Boston Breakers. Former Pac-12 Player of the Year, Arielle Ship, was selected in the 3rd round (26th overall) by the Seattle Reign FC (she was then traded to Washington Spirits prior to the start of the season).
The full draft is recapped by SB Nation here. Interestingly, the unnamed players involved in the draft day trade may have very big implications. SB Nation is reporting that Carli Lloyd is going from Houston Dash to Sky Blue FC while Stanford alum is going from the Chicago Red Stars to Houston Dash while Chicago is picking up Sam Kerr, an Australian national, from Sky Blue. So on the day that the Chicago “Red” Stars picked up two Golden Bears, they also subtracted one Stanford Cardinal.
Last season, Chicago Red Stars had one Cal alum in Taylor Comeau. They can have as many as three Bears on the first team roster next year.
Best of luck to Boyd and Gibson in this dawn of their pro career. Both of them have recently trained with the USA Under-23 team, with the obvious goal to make it up to the USWNT. May they have plenty of successes on both the pro and at the national level.