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The Atlanta Beat need to improve their scoring, so the team went with UCLA star forward Sydney Leroux as its the No. 1 pick in the Women's Professional Soccer league draft of college seniors Friday. The draft was held as part of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's convention in Kansas City, Mo.
Leroux, who is currently training with the U.S. women's national team in Los Angeles as it prepares for Olympic qualifying later this month, said she was excited to start her pro career in Atlanta.
"There are some of my U.S. national teammates there in Atlanta, so I am excited to get to be able to play with them again there," Leroux said via webcam. "I am very excited, and thank you for having the confidence in me to pick me No. 1. I hope I can win some games, and maybe even a championship, this year."
National team members Carli Lloyd and Heather Mitts played for the Beat last season.
The Beat earned the top pick in the draft thanks to last season's WPS-worst 1-13-4 record. Leroux, who led the Bruins with 16 goals this past season, should give the Beat's offense some additional firepower.
Atlanta Beat coach James Galanis said Leroux was the player they had targeted and their draft day went well overall.
"We've got three good forwards, and now we've got one more now," Galanis said. "The plan is to get them all out to training and have them compete for three spots. ... Sydney is amazing."
Five of the first seven first-round selections were forwards. Notre Dame forward Melissa Henderson went No. 2 to Sky Blue, while the Breakers took Stephanie Ochs (San Diego) with the third pick.
Sky Blue and the Flash both made trades to get two picks each in the first round. Sky Blue took Levin at No. 4, while the Flash picked forward Lindsay Taylor (Stanford) and the 2011 Hermann Trophy winner, Stanford midfielder Teresa Noyola, at No. 7.
"We got two out of three picks, so we're very happy," Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra said after the draft. "You don't get everything you want. I've liked (Melissa Henderson) for four years. She always stands out. She's what we need, an attacking forward.
"I think she's the No. 1 pick the league. We're ecstatic we're getting her."
WPS commissioner Jennifer O'Sullivan hosted the draft and addressed the state of the league in her opening remarks. The league will kick off the 2012 season in early April.
"My first three months with WPS have been very busy, to say the least," O'Sullivan said. "We've been faced with some very serious challenges, and made some tough decisions. While we're still working to resolve a legal issue, we continue to move forward."
WPS remains engaged in litigation, as former magicJack owner Dan Borislow is suing the league over its termination process.