We continue with our look at potentially incoming NWSL Draft prospects. We’ve looked at a range of attacking and midfield talent, so now it’s time to give the defense some love. After all, the 2022 NWSL Rookie of the Year was also the league’s 2022 Defender of the Year, Naomi Girma.

While that’s a high bar, these two defenders are primed to put themselves on the shortlist of players who could be capable of making a similar noise in the league in 2023.

Emily Madril

Current team: BK Häcken (Sweden)

Position: Defender

Player Profile: Line-breaking CB

This is a weird one so get ready for some NWSL policy and procedural fun. Madril opted to forgo the remainder of her NCAA eligibility in August, but due to NWSL rules for college athletes, Madril can only enter the league via the draft. So she signed a contract with the league itself (the NWSL) and went to play professionally on loan with BK Häcken in Sweden until the 2023 NWSL Draft. Again, we repeat: #AbolishTheDraft.

Anyway, due to this oddness, we at least knew Madril was a guaranteed name on the list of potential draftees. Madril is a versatile defender but truly shines as a modern center back. She’s good with her positioning, excellent at shielding players wide from central areas, and has the in-possession skills that modern teams need from defenders.

At Florida State, it wasn’t at all uncommon to see Madril shift the ball away from a pressing player and drive forward into midfield, or even attacking, areas. Once there, she also showed an uncommon calm for distributing the ball, evading players on the dribble, or working a shot at goal for herself.

The other thing to know about Madril is that she ain’t at all used to losing, and she has the collection of #RINGZ (and target in mind) to prove it.

Reyna Reyes

School: Alabama (Senior)

Position: Defender

Player Profile: Stay Ready All-Star

When Reyes was just 14 she was called up to represent Mexico with the U17 Mexico National Team. She played with the team during the 2018 U17 World Cup when they finished second to Spain. Now, her continued progress and play for Alabama has led to her collecting senior national team call-ups as well.

She chose to attend Alabama after a two-week tour of schools with her Mom. Alabama was her first stop and she remained sold throughout her other visits. The campus and potential teammates she met helped, but what really sold her was the challenge of turning Alabama (at the time ranked in the 200s nationally) into a powerhouse. In the 2022 NCAA Women’s College Cup, in large part thanks to Reyes, Alabama was one of four #1 seeds.

Reyes plays left and right back for Mexico, and at Alabama, she played both outside back positions as well, plus center back, attacking midfield, and defensive midfield. While she’s versatile, Reyes’ tenacity 1v1 in wide areas and ability to drive the ball forward makes fullback, in particular, left back — her best and most natural position. She possesses the can’t-be-teached ability to track and win the ball in the box during dead ball (corners, free kicks) or crossing situations.

That ability comes in handy on both ends of the pitch, too. Against Duke in the College Cup quarterfinals, Reyes scored the winning goal in the 98th minute to send Duke home and advance Alabama to the semifinal. The play is an excellent example of Reyes’ uncanny ability to find the ball in tight, chaotic spaces. Winning the header is one thing, but drifting into that space to reunite with the ball borders on clairvoyance.

We're planning to enjoy a lot of goals like this from Reyna Reyes in the NWSL

Gaming Society has you covered with more NWSL Draft prep!

Check out more notes on our favorite prospects and the current state of the league through free agency:

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