Angels City soccer plays San Jose Sunday
May 26, 2022
The dream start for Angel City FC continues to turn heads in Los Angeles and in the soccer world as they won their third game is four regular season matches. ACFC turned Banc of California Stadium into a Saturday night Angel fever by shutting out the Kansas City Current, 1-0, before a packed crowd of 18,514 on May 21. The win moved the team into second place (9 points) in the NWSL standings behind the league leading San Diego Wave FC (12 points).
"You could just see little incremental improvements now we're getting results," said ACFC Midfielder Cari Roccaro. "This is our first back-to-back wins in the regular season and that's huge for us. That was something we set our minds to. We wanted to put two good performances together and I think we're all really pumped about that."
The lively entertaining crowd at The Banc erupted in celebration with the game's only score in the 70th minute when forward Christen Press forced the issue to pressure Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch and defenders Elizabeth Ball and Taylor Leach into an own goal. Press took a perfect pass from ACFC midfielder Savannah McCaskill, recovered from Ball's coverage after pushing the end line, before sending a deflected touch off Leach across the goal line.
"I think it was a solid performance. We've been asking to see consistency in our previous games, and I think we're starting to get it. On the ball there were great moments, but our team is still hungry and we're going to keep pushing to be even better," said ACFC head coach Freya Coombe.
"Kansas did a great job of putting us under pressure in the first five minutes, but we rode the storm and began to put pressure on them. The stats from the game should show that we did that well and made it hard for them to play."
Kansas City seemingly had the early lead in the 9th minute of the physical battle when defender Alex Loera curved a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. But ACFC goalkeeper DiDi Haracic's quick reaction deflected the shot just over the crossbar to deny the Current. Haracic and her teammates have not allowed a goal for the past 295 minutes of play while earning consecutive 1-0 shutouts. They've only yielded two total goals this season, which is tied for the fewest goals allowed with San Diego and the Houston Dash.
"It was tricky," said Haracic about the free kick save. "It's difficult trying to see behind five of my players. That's the worst part when you have the five tallest players on the team as blockers. I'm doing my job and they did theirs. We kept it simple, kept it clean."
Roccaro said, "I have to give full 100% credit to DiDi today and that save she made, I have never seen anything like it. That was why we won the game, she kept us in the game and after she made that save we were like alright, we got this."
Coombe spoke about Haracic thriving on pressure while improving with each match. "You talk about turning points in games, and that was definitely one. Not only for us to keep a clean sheet, but also the momentum that it gives everyone else just through her performance and confidence."
The final score could have been even greater except for the effort and execution by Current goalkeeper Franch, who made at least three excellent saves. The first save was a block on ACFC forward Simone Charley who fired away from inside the box in the 31st minute. Six minutes later, forward Tyler Lussi's attempt was blocked followed by McCaskill's targeted shot towards the far post that barely sailed wide left. Angel City outshot Kansas City 13-9 with four shots on goal to one for the Current.
Roccaro continued to say, "We're a tough defense to break down, but it does start from the front too. It's not only our back four or our keeper. It starts from our frontline pressing: Simone Charley, Tyler Lussi, Christen Press, Jun Endo, that's where it really starts. It's totally a team effort."
Angel City Football Club is off to the second fastest start of all the current Los Angeles professional franchises in its inaugural season as the team prepares for this Sunday's match with visiting New Jersey / New York Gotham FC starting at 5:00 p.m. ACFC also has the league's best attendance total and average (19,341) three home games into the regular season. Portland Thorns FC, the perennial NWSL attendance leader is second, averaging 13,222 fans per home match.
NJ/NY Gotham is currently tied for 9th place in the standings with three points in three games. They clean-sheeted the Orlando Pride 3-0 in the season opener but has subsequently lost two consecutive shutouts to San Diego 4-0 on the road and to Racing Louisville 1-0 in their home opener before a sparse crowd of only 2.572 fans at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. It's apparent that the NYC-area club needs serious reflecting on multiple levels as the second largest soccer market in the league. But still in its very first months of competing, Angel City has to be considered the underdog in its fifth regular season match as a franchise.
Haracic said, "We see every game as important. We want to be at the top of the table. We want to win championships. We want to make history. An expansion team has yet to do that. Kansas City is a great club, and this league is up and down. It was a bit of a momentum, but we're confident every game we're coming into. We want to win. We want to keep clean sheets. That's our game plan."