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In drafting Tierna Davidson, Chicago Red Stars have player to ‘build a franchise around’

This April 5, 2018, file photo shows United States' Tierna Davidson moving the ball against the Mexico during the first half of an international friendly soccer match in Jacksonville, Fla. Davidson was selected first overall in the 2019 NWSL draft. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

CHICAGO — It’s not every year that a player in the National Women’s Soccer League’s college draft has the résumé of Tierna Davidson.

In fact, if you ask Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames, it’s only about every five or six years.

The Red Stars picked Davidson first overall to begin Thursday’s NWSL draft in Chicago. She is a national team defender who left Stanford with a year of eligibility remaining. Dames wasn’t shy about heaping praise on the 20-year-old.

“There hasn’t been a player like her in the last two or three (drafts), and I don’t think there’s another player like her in the next two or three,” Dames said of Davidson. “If we’re going to be honest, I think the closest thing to her that’s come in a draft is probably Julie (Ertz), that can step into centerback right away.

“I think she is a player that is a once-in-every-five-or-six-years player and we’re super excited to have her.”

Davidson wasn’t at the draft because she is in camp with the national team in Portugal. She recorded a video message that was shown on the big screen after her selection.

Her decision to go pro after her junior season was revealed only a day before the draft. Davidson already has 12 caps with the United States. She played at her new home stadium with the national team at the Tournament of Nations on Aug. 2. This is also a World Cup year, which played a part in Davidson’s decision to go pro.

“There are a couple factors that went into this conversation, but I would say the biggest factor was putting me in the best position to develop as a soccer player in the coming months before this World Cup and then beyond, looking at the very busy U.S. Women’s National Team schedule between now and the end of 2020,” Davidson said via conference call. “The competition in the NWSL is the best way to go for me.”

 

She said the idea of going pro early started to materialize at the Tournament of Nations. Davidson scored an own-goal in the 16th minute of that match against Brazil. The U.S. still rallied for a 4-1 victory to win the tournament.

“That was where I was getting some good minutes against some more difficult teams,” Davidson said. “After the She Believes Cup, that really helped me grow with the team, kind of jell with the players a little bit more and then just spend time with them. I started to think that really could be a possibility, where next summer I could really be with them for the months of June and July and compete for the world title.”

Five new Red Stars teammates — Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Morgan Brian, Casey Short and Danielle Colaprico — are with Davidson in U.S. camp. She said she talked to them about the culture around the Red Stars.

Davidson missed most of her junior season after suffering an ankle injury in September. She said she plans to finish her degree at Stanford. When asked if she would have gone pro if it wasn’t a World Cup year, Davidson didn’t have a clear answer.

“I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to speculate,” Davidson said. “Obviously, putting myself in an entirely different situation, I think it definitely would have altered the options that I was looking at. I don’t know if I could say either way for sure if it would have changed my decision, but it definitely would have been an important factor to think about.”

Davidson not only gets to begin her professional career and face tougher competition in an effort to make the World Cup roster, but she also joins a competitive team. Unlike most teams that usually hold the first pick, the Red Stars have made the playoffs each of the last four years. They acquired the pick in a trade last offseason.

Davidson could miss as much as half the NWSL regular season due to the World Cup and the lead-up matches for it. That also goes for the other five Red Stars currently in camp. Similar goes for Chicago’s Australian star, Sam Kerr. In all, the Red Stars could miss seven players for a significant chunk of the regular season in 2019. Dames said that factored into the team’s plans. However, Davidson was too good to pass up.

“I would never say that our decision to take her was affected by if she’d be here or not be here,” Dames said. “I think it was more impacted by what she can do over the next 10 years when she’s here. She’s the kind of player you can build a franchise around. She’s rock solid.”

 

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