Kennedy Fuller dazzles in debut

Henry Tran - The Sporting Tribune
The 17 year old started for Angel City in her professional debut.

LOS ANGELES — Kennedy Fuller graduated high school in two and a half years, not knowing whether she would become a professional or play soccer at the University of North Carolina.

She trained with multiple NWSL teams, such as the North Carolina Courage, Kansas City Current, San Diego Wave, and Angel City. Also, Fuller spent three weeks with Chelsea F.C. Women under the soon-to-be United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) head coach Emma Hayes.

She would only become a professional if she knew the team was the right fit. And it ended up being Angel City that stood out to Fuller. The club announced she was signing with them through the NWSL’s U-18 entry mechanism on March 6.

“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was a place for me to grow and I didn’t feel comfortable,” Fuller said.

“I don’t feel out of place at all. They want me to be here, and that’s something that I really enjoy. They want me to be here, and they enjoy me being here, and I enjoy being here. That’s the most important.”

Fuller’s addition came less than two weeks before Sunday’s season opener against Bay FC. However, the night before the match, she found out she was starting. Fuller was nervous as she was set to make her professional debut in front of a sold-out crowd of 22,000 fans, but she views those feelings as a positive sign. 

“If you’re not nervous, I don’t think you care enough,” Fuller said.

Head coach Becki Tweed was confident in starting Fuller because of her talent and maturity. She believes the moment needs to be right for young players to debut, and Fuller proved she could handle a season-opening start.

“Kennedy [Fuller] is a talent,” Tweed said. “You have to take age out and pick the best players at the moment. And she was ready. She’s produces she can play forwards. She doesn’t play like she’s 17, and she’s not fazed by anything.

When you look at giving players their debut in this environment and the stadium, you have to think about, ‘Is it right for them? Does it fit their personality? Is it the right moment to introduce people in their professional debut?’ When I look at Kennedy, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting to know her and knowing, this was absolutely the right moment.”

Henry Tran – The Sporting Tribune

Fuller also had her teammates to help her through the process. They checked in on her before the game, giving her the extra confidence she needed. 

I wouldn’t have been able to get the courage and all that without my teammates,” Fuller said. “Before the game, I had a bunch of pats on the backs, let’s go’s, a lot of that, which really helped.”

Once the match kicked off, Fuller became the youngest player to appear in a match for Angel City. However, it quickly became apparent that she belonged on the professional stage. She appeared composed as she created chances for her teammates and won duels. 

One of Fuller’s brightest moments came 35 minutes into the match when she threaded a through ball to midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard in the center of the box. Dougherty Howard put a solid attempt on goal, but Bay goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx saved it. 

Fuller played 89 minutes, took 37 touches, made 19-of-24 accurate passes, won four-of-five ground duels, created three chances, took two shots on target, made five recoveries, intercepted two passes, and was fouled three times. It was a complete performance from the young midfielder, who drove Angel City’s attack. 

Kennedy is top-notch,” said defender Merritt Mathias. “You can see in her play that she’s very mature for her age. I don’t think you get a rookie contract at that age if you don’t have something to your game and can stand solidly in that. 

As a person and as a player, she’s wonderful. She adds a lot not only in the game but also in the locker room. We’re all really proud of her. Everyone wanted her to do well, find comfort, and do her thing, and you saw that today. She’s only going to get better and better, so I’m excited for the rest of her career.”

Henry Tran – The Sporting Tribune

Being a standout is nothing new for Fuller, as she has been one for the United States Youth National Teams (USYNTs) for multiple years. In 2022, she scored nine goals in five games at the Concacaf U-15 Girls’ Championship, where she won the Golden Ball. Fuller also excelled in the 2024 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship, winning the Golden Boot. 

The future appears bright for Fuller, who has impressed almost everywhere she has been. But she is still 17, and Tweed wants to put her in the best positions to thrive long-term. Angel City will play 26 regular season matches in 2024, but Fuller could also play internationally. Tweed wants to ensure Fuller has a balanced plate while she develops. 

“We have to manage her,” Tweed said. “She is so young, and we have to look after her. She’s still got a really high ceiling and so much room to grow. We have to look after her. It’s one game and this season, in the NWSL, it’s long. It’s not like there are off weeks. 

“She also plays international football, and we want to encourage that. That adds to your growth, and we just have to manage her. How she’s going to develop in your first year as a pro is always hard; you learn a lot about yourself, but she’s in a great place. This team is brilliant with the younger players, and they want to help them grow, and she will continue to grow as it goes on.”

How large a role Fuller plays in her rookie year is still to be seen. But excelling in a debut is one way to advocate for minutes, and she did that on Sunday.