Naomi Girma San Diego Wave 2022San Diego Wave

USWNT prospect Girma opens up on being the top NWSL pick, training against Alex Morgan, and her Ethiopian roots

U.S. women's national team prospect and top NWSL draft pick Naomi Girma has spoken to GOAL about her experience with the expansion San Diego Wave, training against Alex Morgan and her Ethiopian-American upbringing, among other topics.

Girma was selected first overall by the Wave in the 2022 NWSL Draft out of Stanford University, and is now getting set to embark on her first professional season.

The 21-year-old center back, who was named the 2020 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, has starred for the USWNT at various youth levels, and has been called into camp with the senior team on two occasions.

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On starting with an expansion team

Girma is expected to feature heavily for the Wave, who will enter the league in 2022 along with Southern California rivals Angel City FC.

"I think [joining an expansion team] makes it easier being a rookie, because I'm not going into a team where everything's already set and I can help with the beginnings and figuring out how we want things to work and how we want the culture to be," Girma said on All of US: The U.S. Women's Soccer Show.

Working with Stoney and Morgan

The Wave have brought ex-Manchester United boss Casey Stoney in as head coach, and Girma has enjoyed working under the former England international defender.

"She's very personable as a coach and really wants to emphasize she's here to support us on or off the field, and wants to build relationships with us as people as well," Girma said of Stoney.

"She'll be like, 'OK, center backs come with me after training' and we'll do a little extra work on something like defending in the box or like, really small details that you don't always get from coaches if they don't have such expertise in that position."

Girma also spoke about training against USWNT star Alex Morgan, one of the Wave's biggest acquisitions ahead of their inaugural season.

"I think it's teaching me [to] play faster, or there are certain things that maybe you can do in college, but you can't do at the pro level.

"The level is higher, the players are better and playing against one of the top players in the world every day – I feel extremely blessed and grateful that I have this opportunity."

On her Ethiopian roots

Girma was born and raised in San Jose, California, and both of her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia. She spoke about how this dual upbring influenced her.

"At home... it was a lot of Ethiopian culture and then going to school, [it was] a lot of the American culture. That dual upbringing was definitely interesting and something I had to navigate when I was younger, but I'm really thankful I had that experience now," Girma said.

"It's shaped me as a person, my values and the emphasis on community and support. That's a big thing in Ethiopian culture and it's something that I highly value."

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