Photo Credit: Dave Janosz

NJ/NY Gotham FC Add 2 Players in the 2023 NWSL Draft

The 2023 NWSL Draft kicked off on Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia where the top college soccer stars waited for their names to be called to give them their new homes.

NJ/NY Gotham FC added two college players to their roster with the 4th and 44th pick in the draft. Prior to the draft, Gotham was supposed to have the 1st, 10th, 13th and 44th selections, but with trades prior to the draft, they only had the 4th and 44th pick.

One New Jersey native was selected as well.

Jenna Nighswonger

With the 4th pick in the NWSL Draft, the NJ/NY team selected Jenna Nighswonger from Florida State University (FSU). The rookie has plenty of accolades to her name including College Soccer News First Team All-American (2022), ACC Tournament MVP (2022), ACC All-Freshman Team (2019) among others. Nighswonger ended her FSU career with 19 goals and 34 assists. In her final season as a Seminole, she recorded a career-high six goals in the season and 16 assists which puts her second all-time for assist leaders. With stats like those, Nighswonger will prove throughout the season why she was the number four overall pick.

Nighswonger is similar to now teammate, Krisite Mewis. The two are similar in the sense that both hold a strong left foot and high soccer IQ. While Mewis is away with the national team, Nighswonger can expect to see plenty of minutes to show head coach Juan Carlos Amoros why the team drafted her.

"We acquired the fourth pick specifically with the aim of adding Jenna to our team,” general manager Yael Averbuch West said. “She is a player who we feel will adapt quickly to NWSL, has enormous potential, and fits well into what we are building."

Iliana Hocking

With the 44th pick in the NWSL Draft, Gotham selected Iliana Hocking from the University of Arizona. Hocking may have not had a lot of goals scored or assists to her name, but her defensive style is what draws attention to her. Her high soccer IQ allows her to perfectly time the hardest of slide tackles to prevent the opponent from advancing. Hocking even moves well on the ball as she picks out her open teammates to start the attack.

Hocking can expect to share minutes with Allie Long as they play similarly as the defensive midfielder. Hocking can be the aggression the team lacked in the midfield last season, and help give Gotham the spark they needed. If she plays like she has at Arizona, Hocking will have no problem making a name for herself at Gotham.

New Jersey Native

Only one Jersey native was drafted in the 2023 draft. With the 22nd pick in the draft, the Houston Dash selected Jyllissa Harris from the University of South Carolina. Harris is from Hazlet, NJ  and she will now embark on her journey to Houston. She has won many accolades which include CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team, United Soccer Coaches All-Southeast Region First Team, All-SEC First Team and more.

Despite being a center back, Harris scored four goals and three assists. She even scored an Olympico in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Championship. Over her five years at South Carolina, Harris tallied 16 goals and 11 assists. The Dash add Harris to their list of defenders who often play a huge part in gaining three points.

Shocking Trades

Prior to the draft, trades all around the league occurred to be able to secure the best draft pick possible and acquire new star players. Gotham was involved in three big trades that saw two big players come in, and one New Jersey native going out.

Gotham was involved in a four team trade that featured Angel City FC, Orlando Pride and the Portland Thorns. Angel City knew high school star Alyssa Thompson was going to declare for the draft and wanted to get first dibs on the young player. Gotham acquired midfielder Yazmeen Ryan and allocation money in exchange for the 1st overall pick in the draft.

“In Yazmeen Ryan, we have added a great, young talent who has already established herself as a highly effective NWSL midfielder,” Averbuch West said.

A second trade right before the draft began featured Gotham acquiring the 4th overall pick from Racing Louisville in exchange for forward Paige Monaghan, allocation money and an international roster spot.

For the final trade Gotham played a part in, the NJ/NY team acquired Lynn Williams. Gotham traded the 2nd overall pick to the Kansas City Current, who in exchange sent over Williams.

“Lynn Williams is a proven goal scorer who plays to her strengths and to the strengths of those around her,” head coach Juan Carlos Amorós said. “She is a player who can get in behind the defense to create chances and can support holding up the play. Lynn is a great finisher in the box and a both-sided player who leads the forward line with an attitude and work ethic that presses the opposition.”

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