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2018 NWSL draft: Washington Spirit select Stanford midfielder Andi Sullivan with the top pick

The Stanford captain and USWNT midfielder is coming to the Soccerplex

Brad Smith/

The Washington Spirit used the first pick in the 2018 NWSL draft to select midfielder Andi Sullivan. An emerging fixture for the USWNT, Sullivan had a dominant NCAA career with the Stanford Cardinal, capped off by winning the 2017 M.A.C. Hermann trophy and captaining her side to their second-ever national title.

“I want to be here, playing in the NWSL,” said Sullivan, who added that she wants to help grow the league. Addressing speculation that she might have been pursuing options abroad, Sullivan said that the delay on registering for the draft was simply down to her taking some time off from all things soccer after the NCAA season ended.

“Having the ability to pick Andi is huge,” said Spirit head coach Jim Gabarra, who added that Washington could “build our franchise around [Sullivan] for years to come.” Gabarra described the Spirit as “truly blessed” to be able to add a player of Sullivan’s talents with local roots.

Sullivan, 22, hails from Lorton, VA, and described herself as “super excited” to be playing for her local NWSL club. After appearing for the United States at the youth national team level through the under-23 level, Sullivan earned her first senior cap in late 2016. Since then, she has appeared six more times, and seems to be established in the midfield mix for Jill Ellis heading into a year that includes CONCACAF’s qualifying tournament for France 2019.

Capable of playing any central midfield role as well as center back, Sullivan figures to strengthen the spine of Washington’s team. Gabarra said that he sees Sullivan “fitting our style of play,” which generally emphasizes keeping possession. The Spirit are now deeper in central midfield than anywhere else, boasting stalwart defensive midfielder Tori Huster, 2017 rookie of the year candidate Meggie Dougherty Howard, the box-to-box presence of Joanna Lohman, holding midfielder Morgan Proffitt, and the more attack-minded Havana Solaun all contending for spots supporting attacking midfielders Mallory Pugh and Estefania Banini.

Adding Sullivan also reflects on the Spirit’s attempts to build a young, talented team. She is the third player in the USWNT pool to join the Spirit in the last eight months, following in the footsteps of Pugh and Taylor Smith, who was acquired in a trade for Crystal Dunn on Tuesday. That same trade also brought Ashley Hatch, last season’s NWSL Rookie of the Year, to Washington. Hatch beat Pugh and Dougherty Howard to that award, meaning the Spirit will be able to field all three of the top rookies from last season.

Beyond that, the Spirit’s other moves have seen them land numerous draft picks. They acquired the third overall pick in today’s draft in another Tuesday trade, and also hold the first pick and sixth picks in the second and third rounds (#11, #16, #21, and #26 overall) as well as the first pick in the fourth round (#31 overall).