Culver City Observer -

A Unique yet Powerful Matchup

 

September 22, 2022

By: Ethan Dumper

KidScoop Media Correspondent, Age 13

On Monday, September 5th, Angel City FC faced off against the Mexican National Team in a unique meeting. It was dubbed the "Copa Angelina" with a special trophy made for the occasion. The match was advertised as a chance to "highlight the rich Mexican culture in Los Angeles through entertainment, community outreach, and an annual competition on the pitch." A club team playing a national team has only happened a few times ever, and almost never on the women's side. Angel City plays in the NWSL, they are a club team that plays in a national league, with players they sign from around the world. Mexico meanwhile, is a national team. Their team comprises the best players in their nation, and they play other national teams in tournaments like the World Cup.

If it wasn't already unusual for a club to play a national team, what made it even more noteworthy was the fact that it fell during a FIFA international match window. The International windows are a time that the International Federation of Football Association, FIFA, designates for countries to play friendly matches against each other, in games that will affect the world rankings. Angel City released a number of key players to play for their respective national teams, while Mexico made a different decision. Mexico decided they would play a match on the second against New Zealand, and then another one on the fifth against Angel City. It was an interesting decision by the Mexican side to play two matches so close to each other, especially because they need all the rest they can get because they have been sliding recently. In the CONCACAF Women's Championship, an important decider for the World Cup which Mexico hosted, they went 0-0-3 losing all three games without scoring a single goal, meaning that they would not qualify for the World Cup, the biggest event in soccer. Then in Mexico's match against New Zealand, they failed to score again, resulting in a one-to-nothing loss. While Mexico couldn't find the back of the net or a win, Angel City was playing out their inaugural season in the NWSL. With fairly high success for being a new club, they were aided by international players like Sidney Leroux and Jun Endo. Surprisingly, this wasn't Angel City's first game against a Mexican side. In early August, they faced Tigres UANL Femenil in a unique match between the clubs. Angel City went on to win the match one-to-nothing, in a game where they didn't play their starters until later in the game.

The game was played at Banc of California Stadium and the first thing I noticed as I walked in was the amount of support for Mexico. While the Angel City fans were clearly heard, it surprised me to see the number of Mexican flags being waved all over the stadium, and there was quite a bit of cheering once the team was introduced. The first half was fairly uneventful with a couple of close chances coming for Angel City, but the main takeaway was how this home game for ACFC was sounding more and more like an away match. The cheers for each Mexican shot were noticeably louder than those for an Angel City shot, and a few times the Mexico fans picked up a chant. On Angel City's home turf, you could distinctly hear a few, Mexico!, Mexico! chants. In the post-match press conference, defender Jasmine Spencer talked a bit about this as well. "Going into the play-off stretch, there's a good chance that if we do make it, we will be having to go up against these big teams like Portland or Seattle, and play in their packed houses and have the crowds against you, so it's another good learning experience for us to have to play with that." The first fifteen minutes of the second half played out without much action before in the 72nd minute, Mexico won a free kick from deep outside the box. The ball was struck into the middle, and there was quite a bit of confusion with the ball bouncing off at least three players including the goalie before finding its way into the back of the net. Mexico was on top, despite the fact that Angel City had just subbed three of its best players into the game. Because NWSL playoffs are coming up, Angel City didn't want to strain their top women, so they didn't put in Endo, McCaskill, and Lussi until the 63rd minute. "Building out our community is something that is really important to us, but we also value all of our players on our team and it gives a great chance to give players opportunity, while also maintaining our run for playoffs, so maintaining that balance is really important to us." The pace began to pick up but Angel City couldn't find a response before Mexico scored again just four minutes later. Very quickly, Mexico took a clear 2-0 lead and held on to that until the end of the game.

After four games without a goal, Mexico finally bounced back to win the first ever Copa Angelina over Angel City. They had a celebration afterward with confetti and a special trophy. While the game and the gameplay were fun, the true importance of the match was to celebrate the rich Mexican culture in Los Angeles and to further the hope of spreading women's football at a higher level, worldwide.

 

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