Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Pride Night with Angel City FC

ACFC Plays Dash to a Draw at the Banc

 

Angel City FC

Player of the Match Dani Weatherholt (17) battles Dash midfielder Shea Groom (10) to the pitch

Love at the Banc. Angel City FC celebrated Pride Night in front of 16,739 fans on a Tuesday night, playing to a 0-0 scoreless draw against the Houston Dash. ACFC's defense returned to form against the NWSL's hottest team to blunt a two-game losing streak, but the offense's scoreless drought extended to three games. Yet, the clear message was one of inclusiveness for its supporters and a signal that the club is emerging as a leader for positive change in women's professional sports.

"Our community is our priority," said team captain Ali Riley. "I love our supporters and I love our fans. I really hope that we can continue to show that here at Angel City everyone is welcome, and we accept you for who you are. We continue to grow together and be an example for other teams, other leagues, and other sports."

ACFC head coach Freya Coombe reiterated: "The crowd tonight was absolutely phenomenal. We know it's a Tuesday night, but the number of people that were here with all of the love and support. It was definitely felt." To draw such a large crowd on a Tuesday night for soccer is notable enough, especially considering that the match was only recently changed from its originally Wednesday, June 15 scheduled date.

It was the fifth straight packed audience at Banc of California Stadium for Angel City as it continues to set the pace for league attendance in its inaugural season, averaging 18,709 per match. ACFC and the San Diego Wave FC's entry into the NWSL this season is a critical shot in the arm for the league. Portland Thorns FC has been the only club carrying the mantle for league attendance since its inception in 2013, setting the record in 2019 by averaging a remarkable 20,098 at Providence Park. San Diego, temporarily playing at Torero Stadium (6,000), will begin playing at the newly constructed 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium in September.

Angel City and the Dash had numerous chances to score on Tuesday night but timely defense and stellar saves by both goalkeepers earned their teams a clean sheet. DiDi Haracic leaped high and right for a two-handed deflection save in the 33rd minute on a hard shot by Dash defender Sophie Schmidt. Haracic has registered three shutouts, tied for third in the league behind OL Reign's Phallon Tullis-Joyce and Houston's Jane Campbell with four each.

Campbell's moment of glory came in the 69th minute, denying back-to-back attempts within seconds in front of the net by forwards Jun Endo and Christen Press. The split-second reaction save on Press' shot was exceptional. Undoubtedly, Campbell will earn the NWSL Goal Save of the Week in what has become an almost routine act for opponent keepers to elevate their games against ACFC. Seven Angel City shot attempts were also blocked, most dangerously close inside the box.

"The service on the corners was really good and dangerous tonight. Everyone out there wants to score. It feels like it's inches right now and then in the run of play we are better at getting around teams," said Riley.

We're still not drawing teams out enough so we can get these one-on-one chances, or having numbers up to create these really dangerous opportunities in the run of play... The delivery is good. The next step is, how can we get someone who's willing to do whatever it takes to get a body part on the ball?"

Statistically, ACFC led by slim margins in shots, 17-16; shots on goal, 4-2; corners, 8-7; and crosses, 22-19. They dominated in time of possession, 55.2% - 44.8%, and passing accuracy, 73.3% – 62.2%.

Yet, it was the defense that rebounded with a major effort against a Dash offense that had blitzed the Orlando Pride, 5-0, just four days earlier. Defender Dani Weatherholt's fine effort was a key difference on the pitch, enough to earn Player of the Match honors. So far, Angel City's defense is establishing its identity at home by allowing just three goals in five matches for a 2-2-1 record at the Banc, and 3-3-1 overall.

Coombe made a few observations about the team's offensive challenges and current road schedule: "Our speed of play and being able to create those chances was a little slow, and I think that allows teams to get compact, whether it's Portland or whether it's Houston tonight."

"I think our run of games right now are a little tough. We went away to Portland, flew back and then didn't have any time to really train before tonight's game... We are going to deal with the same thing going to Louisville with very limited training time before we travel. I think we're aware of what we need to do in that final third to try and get that goal."

There are two matches remaining in the month of June for ACFC, both on the road before a two-week NWSL schedule break to allow for players to compete for their respective countries internationally. The team will travel (by charter flight, a very welcomed decision) to take on Racing Louisville FC this Saturday, June 11, 5:00 p.m. PDT at Lynn Family Stadium. It will be the very first meeting between the two clubs. Angel City concludes the two-game trip against the OL Reign on Saturday, June 18, 7:00 p.m. at Lumen Field.

Angel City FC

Angel City supporters in force during Pride Night at the Banc

Racing has lost two in a row after starting the season with a loss, a couple of draws followed by a couple of wins. Louisville (2-3-2) is currently tied for ninth in the league standings with eight points. Forward Jessica McDonald leads the team in scoring with two goals, along with Savannah DeMelo, Emily Fox, and Lauren Milliet scoring one each. Goalkeeper Katie Lund has played every minute to date, allowing nine goals while making 22 saves and registering two clean sheets.

Riley was disappointed with the lost opportunity to secure three points at home but focused on the dynamic relationship that the Angel City players have quickly developed with their supporters: "I hope that everyone felt the love tonight. It was an incredible atmosphere. I had so much fun out there because it was a great environment. I hope people feel seen, loved, and welcomed here because I see them, I love them, and I welcome them."

 

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