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What top KC Current NWSL draft pick Michelle Cooper saw here last summer intrigued her

The Kansas City Current are getting ready for their 2023 season in the National Women’s Soccer League, finalizing their roster and building excitement along the way.

Count newly signed No. 2 draft pick Michelle Cooper among the excited. She was in Kansas City on Thursday to be introduced to area media for the first time.

“I hoped there was a possibility that I ended up here because what the organization has done is absolutely phenomenal, taking steps in the right direction for a women’s sport and leading the NWSL,” Cooper said.

“That was something I wanted to be a part of. So when I heard there was a possibility to go there, my heart skipped a beat.”

Cooper’s signing was announced Thursday by the Current, with whom the forward from Duke spent a week in training last summer. The parties agreed to a three-year deal extending through the 2025 season.

“When we drafted Michelle last month, we felt she was a player that could be central to this club for years to come,” general manager Camille Levin Ashton said. “Her strength on the ball and nose for the goal are incredible, and she also has shown a willingness and desire to learn and develop her game, which can only make this club better going forward.

“We are collectively committed to helping her develop and achieve her goals., both on and off the pitch.”

Cooper recalled being impressed by the Current’s intensity during her week in KC last summer.

“The drive to be competitive every single day on the pitch, in the weight room, it is something I wanted to be a part of,” she said, “and it translated on the field and off the field really well.

“The team has a great culture, a great atmosphere, and they’re all great players and great people.”

After spending time with the Current, Cooper returned for her sophomore season at Duke with a drive to “be great.” And that she was, scoring 19 goals, assisting 11 times and ultimately winning the prestigious Mac Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s equivalent to The Heisman.

The Current paid a hefty price for the right to acquire Cooper, surrendering Lynn Williams to New York in exchange for Gotham’s draft pick.

Williams told reporters in New York this week that she didn’t see the trade coming, only learning of its possibility a few hours before the Jan. 12 draft.

“But after the shock wore off,” she said, “I think that Gotham is going to be a great fit. ... Who doesn’t want to live in New York, New Jersey?”

Williams didn’t play more than 80 minutes as a member of the Current. One of the NWSL’s all-time leading goal-scorers, she was injured in KC’s first match last season and wouldn’t see the field the rest of the year.

When the NWSL season kicks off next month, Cooper will don a Current uniform and take the field as a rookie who left school early, a rising star essentially acquired in exchange for a U.S. Women’s National Team veteran.

“I think those are massive shoes to fill,” Cooper said of Williams. “Lynn is a great player. But I’m super-excited to be representing Kansas City, and (I’m) grateful that they’ve given me this opportunity.”