Angel City FC v Club America Femenil

With a little over 15,000 fans in BMO stadium Wednesday night, Angel City was able to celebrate International Women’s Day in style in a dominating 3-0 win over Club America Femenil. Alyssa Thompson, the 2023 #1 overall draft pick, made her debut with the team and immediately put her mark on the match with a 5th minute goal.

Angel City’s New Threat Up Top

As forwards Christen Press and Sydney Leroux remain on the injured list with no concrete timelines on their return, Angel City is in need of speed in the front line to keep opposing teams on their toes. It looks like the answer is Alyssa Thompson and once Angel City has everyone fully back, it’s going to be a scary team to try to contain on the attack.

After the match, Thompson admitted, “I was really nervous. Once I stepped on the field, I felt better and I felt comfortable with my teammates and prepared for what the game was like, what was gonna happen.” You would’ve never known that Thompson was playing her first match for a professional team based on her performance. She attacked the Club America defense time and time again with her speed. It likely didn’t help that Club America had a Liga MX match Monday night and a long travel day on Tuesday.

Last week, captain Ali Riley spoke of Thompson, “I don’t think players we play against will necessarily know how to defend her.”

After the match, Angel City head coach Freya Coombe had nothing but good things to say about Thompson.

“Her goal, she took so coolly and like she had played in a hundred games in this stadium. I think the occasion didn’t put her off. She made the correct decision in the way that she finished and slotted at home. And then I think that she looked threatening all night.

“Defensively she gets herself in really good positions. She tactically knows when to go. She’s able to to work well within the team off the ball, [and] on the ball. She offers really great movement for us to be able to break into spaces she’s able to face up… Her ability to finish has been really impressive.”

One of the other exciting things about Alyssa Thompson is her pairing up top with Claire Emslie. Although this Emslie goal was called back due to offsides (with the new NWSL VAR making its debut), it is clear that the two already have great chemistry that should make Angel City fans excited about the season.

Defense Wins Championships

For the most part, the Angel City defense kept Club America from being threatening. Defender Sarah Gorden made her club debut after an ACL injury last year in preseason kept her off the pitch and looked absolutely amazing Wednesday night.

Ali Riley had hinted that Gorden was back stronger than ever last week, but it was different to see it, “I don’t see how any player is going to be able to get by her. So I just think that gives us a confidence.”

Coombe was also impressed with Gorden’s return to the pitch, “Sarah was tremendous tonight. She’s shown herself in all of our preseason games so far as she’s been increasing minutes. She’s been very consistent. She’s been winning the ball. Her distribution has been good. She defends the space so well and behind the backline, and just adds that air of experience and seniority to our backline. Which has gone a long way for just holding our shape and giving our backline confidence. So she’ll continue to get more minutes and as we get close to the season, but [I’m] incredibly pleased with her and for her with her return to the field.”

With Gorden’s return, Angel City now has what it was missing all last season, a very strong, healthy backline that will be the backbone of their long push to make playoffs this season.

DiDi Haracic spent the first 66 minutes of the match in goal for Angel City, had a few saves and kept her clean sheet. When Brittany Isenhour came in to replace her, it was clear to see the fatigue had set in for Club America and the backline shut down potential attacks before they had a chance to be dangerous.

Madison Hammond, Midfielder

One thing that Angel City fans probably wouldn’t have predicted before the lineups came out Wednesday night was Madison Hammond showing up in the midfield. Hammond, who is on her fourth season in the NWSL, has traditionally always been a defender.

Angel City starting lineup against Club America Femenil March 8th, 2023

Wednesday night, however, she played a six in a double pivot (the graphic was wrong, switch Hammond and McCaskill in your mind). The characteristics of a good six often overlap a lot with the good characteristics of a good defender so it’s not completely unsurprising that Freya Coombe moved her up a line.

Although it was Hammond’s first game in front of the rowdy Angel City crowd in the new position, Coombe said that the team had experimented with it in some of the previous preseason games. “She offers us an option in there to look solid defensively, but also her distribution and her ability to open the game up a little bit with some longer passes,” are just some of the advantages of Hammond moving up according to Coombe. “She’s able to defend the space in front of the back line and be able to read moments to step in.”

Whether the double pivot becomes a more permanent formation for ACFC, Freya Coombe admitted that it is still preseason and the team is still experimenting with formations and rotations.

Angel City’s Midfield Question

At the end of last season, Angel City knew that they needed to make adjustments in the midfield. The team struggled to efficiently move the ball between lines, which more often than not, ended up with the forwards dropping back to help. Whether that problem has been properly addressed in the offseason still has set to be seen.

Of Angel City’s three goals in the friendly, two were created out of quick counter-attacks that skipped the midfield having possession, and the other was a set piece.

The second of the counter attacks highlighted the pairing of forwards Katie Johnson and Simone Charley. Last season Charley had 31 shots in the regular season for Angel City, and 11 of those were on goal and led to two goals. Katie Johnson was acquired as a free agent during the offseason and played last season with Angel City’s southern California rivals, San Diego.

The set piece goal was exciting because that was one area that Angel City struggled with in their inaugural season, likely due in part to the large number of injuries the team was working around. ACFC finished the 2022 regular season 7th out of the 12 teams on successful corners. On the free kick, the ball into the box narrowly missed the foot of Paige Nielsen, however, after a hel header by Megan Reid, Nielsen was able to put the ball in the net and double the Angel City lead.

Looking Forward to Angel City’s Regular Season

Angel City is just two and a half weeks away from the regular season opener on March 26th against NJNY Gotham FC.

Thus far in the preseason, the team had been sharing minutes in their closed-door matches. After the match Coombe commented on the team’s progress thus far:

“We’re making good progress. We’re happy with the layers that we’re able to add in. Tonight was a great example of us being able to give slightly more minutes to some players. Just keep expanding their capability physically.”

“The exposure that they’re having now of working together and that experience, it’s coming together nicely. But obviously, pre-season friendly is not the NWSL, it’s not the the long season that we’ve gotta go into. So we are not gonna get carried away or too excited. Club America have come off a game two days ago, so, I think the big test now is going into the NWSL season where all the teams are hungry. All the teams have parity, they’re all going out to win a championship and now we have to compete and dig deep.”

Angel City’s next open preseason match is March 18th against the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium