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Rookie Madison Curry Stepped Up in an Unexpected First Start


Defender Madison Curry learned she’d be earning her first professional start in Angel City’s match against Kansas City just less than an hour before the game, after a teammate was scratched late due to illness.

She had to pivot from being ready to come in off the bench to taking the field alongside Sarah Gorden to face down one of the top offenses in the league. “After that it was, what are my roles on the field?” she says. “In that moment, I had to get ready. Most of that was being pulled through by my teammates and my coaches, getting me as prepared as I could be in the 30 minutes before warmups—and also understanding that I've been working all season for this in training.”

It wasn’t the situation Curry would have chosen for her first start, but in this business, you have to stay ready for anything. “You never know when your opportunity is going to come,” said Head Coach Becki Tweed after the game. “We talk about it every week: everybody has to prepare as if they're going to play. The opportunity came up for Madi and I think she embraced it, grabbed it with two hands. She played with composure. She was good one-v-one. I think she's definitely one to watch in the future.”

Curry came to Angel City after being selected 51st overall in the 2024 Draft out of Princeton. She was the only one of the club’s three draft picks to earn a contract after preseason. Her start in Kansas City makes her the latest draft pick ever to start an NWSL game, as this was the first year more than 50 players were selected.

“I've always had an underdog mentality,” says Curry of her mindset. “So I’ve always let my play speak for itself and just tried to be as confident as I can, as quick as I can.”

The defender says she learned that in college soccer, where the Ivy League is seen as less competitive compared to conferences like the ACC and SEC. “As an Ivy League school, we were underestimated a lot,” she says. “Our mentality wasn’t to prove everyone wrong, but prove to ourselves that we were good enough. Being a leader of that is what I wanted to create.”

An Orange County native, Curry took a gap year in 2022, returning home and training with a local semi-pro men’s side, AMSG. Returning to school in 2023, she co-captained a Tigers team that made it to the second round of the College Cup, scoring two goals on the season and contributing to six shutouts, including a late save off the line that maintained a 0–0 draw in her final game. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she had one more year of college eligibility, but chose to forgo it because doing so would have meant transfering to another college for a graduate program.

Coming into preseason in LA “was a shock for sure,” says Curry. “Just being around idols like Sydney Leroux who I grew up watching—it almost didn't feel real for like, the first two weeks.”

She adds that she had the team’s goals in mind, not just her own, from the moment she came in. “While I was trying out, the team was also starting their preparation for the season,” says Curry. “I was trying to help as much as I could in whatever way I could to get them to their end goal—just trying to play my part in that.”

Curry, who was a left back in college but has also played at center back, has been a defender since she was a kid. “I think one of the greatest gifts you can have in soccer is versatility,” she says. “In club we had fun, so we got to switch around and stuff, but it turned out to be very valuable. I think it's really important to be flexible, because things happen during a season, especially with a roster of 26 in the NWSL.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, “I think my goal has always been just to come and compete, whether that be on the field or in practice every day,” says Curry. “I think not having a rigid perspective on, ‘if I don't play this many minutes, I'm going to be super upset,’ because being a rookie is hard in the NWSL. My position and my role in the team changes every day, and I think for me it's about making the people on the field better. If I’m playing, that means helping the team in whatever way I can, and if it's off the bench or in practice, it's getting those 11 ready for the next game—and creating a winning and inclusive culture.”

Curry has three older brothers, all of whom still live in Southern California. “I think naturally, the only girl gets a lot of attention, and my brothers made sure to bring me back to reality,” she laughs. “I was always playing sports, but they made sure to let me know they were faster and stronger. They always said they were the best athlete, and little me just wanted to prove them wrong—and now I'm like, this kind of speaks for itself!”

The Kansas City game ended in a disappointing 2–4 loss, but marked a second milestone for Curry in addition to her first start, as she put away her first NWSL goal in the 78th minute off a set piece. “It didn't feel real in the moment and I don't know if I've processed it fully,” she says. “I barely scored in college—I had more assists—so to have that happen right then, it was just like the stars aligned. Thankfully I got it in the back of the net!”

Fellow defender Sarah Gorden made sure to give Curry a shout in the postgame press conference, saying, “She came into a really difficult environment… and she acts like she’s been here before in the way she is so composed on the field, so kudos to her. It was a really tough game and I really think she showed up today.”