Angel City Takes First Road Loss
Team Prepares to Host Dash for Tuesday's Pride Night
June 9, 2022
One quarter of the 2022 NWSL season is already in the books for Angel City FC. The first-year club started off with an ideal 3-1 record but have suddenly lost consecutive games for the first time, both clean sheets. The Portland Thorns FC shut out ACFC in convincing fashion Saturday night, 3-0, scoring two very early goals, while handing Angel City their first-ever regular season road loss.
"It was a tough game for us," acknowledged ACFC head coach Freya Coombe, whose team fell back to a 3-3 record. "We need to be able to move the ball a lot quicker and circulate away from pressure in a much bigger way. Credit to Portland for chances they had in those first couple moments. They were very clinical and finished those chances, which put us on the back foot to go 2-0 down quickly."
Portland struck in the 15th minute on a corner kick. Unmarked defender Kelli Hubly delivered a pinpoint header into the right corner of the net on a perfect assist from rising star forward Sophia Smith. Three minutes later, Canadian national team captain, forward, and legend Christine Sinclair scored the first of her two goals in the match. Angel City failure to clear defensively allowed Hina Sugita to intercept and deliver the assist to Sinclair for an easy putaway.
Sinclair got her brace in the 68th minute on a header over Angel City goalkeeper DiDi Haracic off a fine lob assist by forward Janine Beckie. The goal moved Sinclair into a tie for the NWSL all-time leading goals scored, 57, with Lynn Williams, currently on the K.C. Current roster but out for the season with a hip injury. Samantha Kerr, who played in the NWSL from 2015-2019 is the all-time leader with 77 goals scored. ACFC's Christen Press is fifth on the all-time list with 45 goals.
"We just tried to stay grounded even when we're down," said ACFC forward Simone Charley. "It's about trying to uplift each other. That's our mindset, even when we go down we know we need to dig our heels in for each other."
It doesn't get any easier as ACFC, currently tied for fourth with three other teams at 9 points, hosts the Houston Dash this Tuesday, June 7, 7:00 p.m. for Pride Night at Banc of California Stadium. The 2nd-place Dash scored a league season-high five goals in a 5-0 shutout win over the Orlando Pride last Friday. They also lead the league in total goals with 11 and in differential goals at +8, not to mention that Houston leads the league in fewest total goals allowed with three. For Angel City, it will be their third match in nine days.
"This is something that all teams need to go through," said Coombe. "It is difficult to play so many games, with the travel and the tight schedule in a week, but we need to be able to deliver."
Producing goals has been a challenge to date as ACFC ranks last in the league with a total of four scores, including one that was for an own-goal victory against the Kansas City Current. Defender Vanessa Gilles and forward Jun Endo each scored in the club's inaugural home opening win, and forward Christen Press scored the game's only goal in their inaugural road win against the Washington Spirit. Angel City hasn't physically put the ball over the goal line since that moment, which totals 358 minutes of playing time.
"They did a really good job of keeping numbers in the box, especially when you have a five back. There's a lot of people in front of the goal and that compactness makes it pretty difficult to break down. I think that's something that they did well and that we have to figure out how to break down earlier," replied Charley, who made two appearances for the Thorns in 2019.
Providence is a special place and it feels like old stomping grounds for me. It would've been nice to score a goal against my former team, but we fought hard and I think it's just about building and moving on to the next match."
Coombe: "Coming into the second half it was important for us to get a good foothold in the game. We created a lot of good chances in the second half. We were able to put them under a lot of pressure in terms of the set pieces, but weren't able to convert those."
We needed to play the ball quicker and stop playing into the pressure. We weren't able to switch the point of attack and play out from it. We need to get away from pressure at a much faster rate and recognize when we can play through an opponent."
Angel City FC will be celebrating Pride Night starting with a pre-party from 4:00-6:00 p.m. before Tuesday night's match with the Dash, including music, dancing, food and beverages courtesy of local sponsors, along with a special Pride spirit zone. The first 10,000 fans will receive a pride bandana to commemorate the event, as a packed house is expected once again for ACFC's fifth match of the season. Angel City is leading the NWSL in attendance, averaging an impressive 19,202 fans in its first four matches. Their 76,808 total represents 26.4% of the league's total attendance through Week 6 of the regular season.
Houston forward Nichelle Prince scored the club's first-ever hat trick in beating Orlando, 5-0. Prince is tied for the club scoring lead with forward Rachel Daly, each with four goals. Prince also leads the team with two assists. Defensively, goalkeeper Jane Campbell now has three clean sheets for the season, second behind Phallon Tullis-Joyce of OL Reign with four shutouts, and leads the league in least goals allowed with three and is tied for least losses with one.
Campbell is ranked third in save percentage at 83.3%, just behind Ashlyn Harris of Gotham FC (87.5%) and Tullis-Joyce (85.7%).
In comparison, Angel City's Haracic has yielded six total goals in six matches, is tied for second with Campbell with three shutouts, while her save percentage dropped to 64.7% due to the three goals ACFC yielded to Portland.
The current scheduling compression has prioritized substitution decisions in the early season. Midfielders Hope Breslin, Stefany Ferrer, Miriael Taylor, and Lily Nabet, along with defender/forward Paige Nielsen each substituted at Portland. It was the first match this season where Coombe and her staff used the maximum five substitutions allowed.
Coombe: "Hope... had another good performance and did well, and caused a threat down the left hand side...; Lily played a lot in the Challenge Cup and it was good to have the opportunity to bring her in and play her as a six...; Miri and Stef coming into the front line did a good job of working hard in there, connected a few passes and helped us secure possession. Paige is a veteran of the league and has played her a lot before. It was great to see her get more substantial minutes in the backline."
"This is where it becomes a test for us being able to manage the minutes of the squad. That was a big reason for the substitutions as well tonight. Giving people an opportunity but being mindful of the minutes with it being a congested week."