Angel City's Christen Press is out for the season
June 16, 2022
Angel City Football Club received the worst possible news on Monday, June 13. The club confirmed that team leader and forward Christen Press sustained a season-ending ACL injury in the 63rd minute at Racing Louisville on Saturday night. ACFC rallied to beat Louisville, 3-2, on Savannah McCaskill's penalty conversion in stoppage time, but that took a back seat to Press' injury. Undeniably, it is a cruel blow to the first-year franchise that improved its record to 4-3-1.
"We are gutted that Christen has experienced this injury," read a statement by ACFC head coach Freya Coombe. "She has been incredible on and off the field for us this year. The team, our staff, and the whole Angel City organization are here to fully support Christen during her recovery and return to the pitch."
Press was diagnosed with a torn right ACL and has been placed on the season-ending injury list. Press was enjoying a stellar game with a goal and an assist when she crumbled to the turf just as she dribbled diagonally into Angel City's 18-yard box. Minutes later she was able to stand with the help of teammates but needed help walking off the field.
It was a double punch in the gut at the time for Angel City as seconds after Press' fall Louisville forward Nadia Nadim was given a penalty kick on a foul by ACFC defender Megan Reid. Nadim converted to tie the game at 2-2 in the 65th minute. But the damage was negligible in comparison to losing the face of the franchise for the rest of the season.
At 3:18 p.m. Monday afternoon Press used social media to tweet the following: "My heart is broken: I've torn my ACL. Readily accepting all love, prayers, virtual hugs, dog pics, and smudging ceremonies.
Love you all xx". Press was soon inundated with thousands of replies, words of encouragement from others who have recovered from ACL injuries, but mostly thousands of photos of dogs replying on twitter.com. Angel City FC tweeted: "Your team loves you, @ChristenPress. We are prepping all of the things on your list (and more) to help you through this time. (Heart)"
Louisville applied pressure and kept Angel City at bay for a greater part of the first half. They finally opened the scoring in the 29th minute on a set piece from just outside the box. Savannah DeMelo delivered a laser pass to Gemma Bonner, who promptly put the ball away in front of the goal unchecked for a 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, Press completed the equalizer after taking a long assist from Reid down the right side. The goal sequence was classic: short touch pass from goalkeeper DiDi Haracic to Reid flaring right, a quick push up-field followed by a 50-yard pass to Press, who outsprinted the defense, touched the ball forward twice before nailing it past Racing goalkeeper Katie Lund. Two minutes later Press almost scored again with a close-angled hard shot from the same side but Lund was up to the challenge.
"We know that we can play a bit more direct, as long as the quality of the ball is there. It was nice (to get) that connection right. We have that ability to play more direct ball. It's not always about possession," said Coombe. "Being able to put Christen in those positions is something that she'll relish. It's important for our team, and I thought the quality of the finish was great."
Angel City immediately jumped in front to take a 2-1 lead two minutes into the second half, again with a transition goal. Press maneuvered towards goal and placed a deft pass to Savannah McCaskill, who easily escorted the first goal of her game brace into the net. Press and McCaskill are tied for the team's lead in goals scored with two each. Angel City's three goals broke the club's three-game scoreless drought and also set the new standard for goals scored in a match.
Coombe: "We knew there were some areas we wanted to exploit against them. It was a great ball, and Savannah provided the creative finish, which is a typical Sav kind of finish, showing class."
It was a rewarding return to Louisville for McCaskill, who started 22 of 23 matches for Racing last year, and now has eight goals and eight assists playing with her fourth club in four NWSL seasons. Press' first-half score gives her 47 career NWSL goals, and fifth on the league's all-time scoring list. Unfortunately, she will have to wait until next season before she attempts to pass Jessica McDonald who is fourth with 51 league goals. Coincidentally, Louisville sent McCaskill to Angel City and acquired McDonald in a three-way trade with ACFC and the Houston Dash in December 2021.
"It was great for us to come out and get that strong start in the second half and put them under pressure," said Coombe, who substituted Madison Hammond for Paige Nielsen and Simone Charley for Miri Taylor at halftime. "I think there's a lot of emotion tonight. The game could have gone either way, but it's great to come away with those three points."
Forward Clarisse Le Bihan substituted for Press in the 66th minute as the team recomposed itself for the final third of the match. Both clubs had equal chances and plenty of time to secure the win with 10 minutes of added stoppage time. ACFC prevailed in the 90+3rd minute when Simone Charley was taken down in the penalty box by Lund. McCaskill stepped up to finish off her former teammates for Angel City's fourth win of the season, equaling the league lead with San Diego Wave FC and the Chicago Red Stars.
"It is important to grind out those games and put them away when we can. Going down a goal early and then being able to fight back, going up a goal, tying again and being able to draw the penalty at the very end of the game," said McCaskill.
"Simone made a fantastic run into the box. Clarisse put a fabulous ball in behind to turn their backline and Simone drew the penalty," said McCaskill. "That's what we need in games like this. We need a way to keep going until the last whistle, and I was able to step up and put it back in the back of the net."
Angel City FC heartwarming reply to Christen Press' tweet on Monday addressing her injury. "It shows a lot of heart from this group. And that's something that I think we've shown all season. We're always going to play until the final whistle, and today we showed that we can win games in tough situations, which I think is really big to carry forward throughout the season."
Angel City is preparing to play at Lumen Field in Seattle against OL Reign this Saturday, June 18, starting at 7:00 p.m. before the league takes a two-week international break. The Reign are currently in 6th place with 10 points behind first place San Diego and Chicago Red Stars (15 points each), second place Angel City and Portland Thorns FC (13 points) and the fifth place Dash (12 points). NJY Gotham FC (7th, 9 points), Louisville, Washington Spirit, KC Current and Orlando Pride (8th, 8 points), and North Carolina Courage (12th, 7 points) round out the league standings after the Week 7 of the regular season.