The Boston Breakers loaded up on offence at the National Women's Soccer League draft Thursday, taking four attack-minded players in the first round starting with Wisconsin star midfielder Rose Lavelle.
Three players from the NCAA champion USC Trojans were taken in the first round.
Former Canadian under-20 forward Lindsay Agnew (Ohio State) went in the second round (19th overall) to the Washington Spirit while Canadian international goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan (Clemson) and forward Nichelle Prince (Ohio State) were chosen in the third round. Sheridan was taken 23rd overall by New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC and Prince 28th by the Houston Dash.
The lure of big money and big-name teams in Europe removed Canadian star defender Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyonnais) and midfielder Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain) in advance of the 10-team draft.
"We would be thrilled to have Ashley and Kadeisha in this league," commissioner Jeff Plush told reporters. "But I also know that there's a lot of great players who have joined this league today and I have a lot of confidence that we're still the best league in the world.
"But to stay there, we can't be complacent. We have to continue to invest more in our players, invest more in our training environments and that's what we're working to do — is getting better every day."
Prior to Thursday, five Canadians had been selected since the inaugural NWSL draft in 2013.
There were still 15 Canadians among the 208 names on the draft-eligible list, as well as players from the U.S., Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland and Spain.
While Agnew was not at the draft, she did tweet her excitement.
A co-captain, Agnew led the Buckeyes with 10 goals and eight assists in 2016. She was born in Kingston, Ont., where her father Gary Agnew was coaching the OHL Kingston Frontenacs. He went on to serve as an assistant coach in the NHL with Pittsburgh, Columbus and St. Louis.
Sheridan, who allowed just 16 goals in 21 games for a .77 goals-against-average at Clemson in 2016, was an Olympic alternate last summer for Canada.
"As soon as I heard [the announcement], I was super-excited. I just kind of sat for a second and took it in," said Sheridan, who has won one cap for Canada.
The 21-year-old from Whitby, Ont., will compete with Caroline Casey and Caroline Stanley, who split goalkeeping duties for Sky Blue FC last season when the 7-8-5 team gave up 30 goals — tied for second-worst in the league.
Prince, who had 27 career goals and 20 assists at Ohio State, was a member of John Herdman's Olympic roster. The 21-year-old from Ajax, Ont., has six goals in 21 appearances (four starts) for Herdman's team.
In Houston, Prince will team up with fellow Canadian international Janine Beckie who was taken sixth overall in last year's draft.
"Attention Houston: this is a GREAT pick!" tweeted Beckie, who has 17 goals in 25 games for Canada.
Houston moved up to get Prince, sending a 2018 second-rounder to Chicago.
Agnew and Prince both hold Canadian-U.S. dual citizenship.
The draft preceded the league's fifth season.
"We're pleased by where we are but we're not satisfied by any stretch of the imagination," said Plush.