Washington Freedom selects Nikki Marshall in first round of WPS draft

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 16, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- Nikki Marshall was a forward with the University of Colorado women's soccer team and a defender for the U.S. under-20 national team. After being selected by the Washington Freedom with the seventh overall pick in the Women's Professional Soccer draft Friday, she will begin to concentrate her efforts almost exclusively on the back line, adding much-needed speed to a club that yielded the most goals in the league's 2009 debut season.

"She's versatile and she has got pace, which is one of our greatest needs," Freedom Coach Jim Gabarra said.

Marshall is a prime candidate to pair with national team veteran Cat Whitehill in central defense and available to play on the outside of the back line and in defensive midfield.

Marshall is Colorado's all-time leading scorer with 93 points on 42 goals and nine assists. But with the under-20 squad, her defensive work helped the United States win the 2008 world title in Chile and she was named the top player in the 2-1 championship victory over North Korea.

"I have only played forward at the college level -- I never played there at the national or club level -- so the transition should be pretty simple," Marshall said. "I hope to learn a lot from Cat back there. She's someone I've looked up to for a long time."

The Freedom chose Washington State midfielder Carly Dobratz in the second round and Miami midfielder Beverly Goebel in the third.

Last month, the Freedom signed Lene Mykjaland, a forward from Norway's national team.

Washington, which lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, will begin its 24-game schedule April 10 against the Boston Breakers at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds.

Three of the top five draft picks were from NCAA champion North Carolina: midfielder Tobin Heath (Atlanta, first overall), defender Whitney Engen (Chicago, fourth) and forward Nikki Washington (Los Angeles, fifth).

UCLA forward Lauren Cheney went second to Boston and Stanford forward Kelley O'Hara, the Hermann Trophy winner as the nation's top player, to Gold Pride (Bay Area) at No. 3.

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