Angel City beat Kansas City, 3-2

Credit: Angel City Football Club
Ali Riley, Alyssa Thompson, and Jun Endo shine during Angel City's 3-2 win over the Kansas City Current on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders Heritage Night.

LOS ANGELES — There were Asian American soccer players making inroads into women’s soccer when defender Ali Riley was growing up, but she did not watch much of them. This was because there were no long-standing professional women’s soccer leagues in the United States for her to follow. 

But now, Riley is giving children someone to look up to, herself. 

“We are breaking these barriers, and we have a platform where little girls get to see people who look like them doing amazing things and living their dreams,” Riley said. 

As a Chinese American, Riley is a role model for many Asian NWSL fans. And on Sunday, she showed why; Angel City celebrated Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month by hosting an Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) Heritage Night as they faced the Kansas City Current. 

Korean-American snowboarder Chloe Kim led the three-clap, and the pregame and halftime featured performances from AANHPI performers. While those performances excited the fans, Angel City’s AANHPI players headlined the show. 

First, 31 minutes into the game, Filipino American forward Alyssa Thompson received a well-placed through ball from forward Claire Emslie, which she retrieved, cut back, and banked in off both goalposts. There was a miniature angle for Thompson to score, yet she found it, giving Angel City a one-goal lead. 

“I looked forward, and I saw there was so much space, so credit to DiDi [Haracic] for finding me, and I just started driving,” Emslie said. “When you have Alyssa [Thompson] on your team, you just play that ball in behind, she’s going to win it. What a bit of skill to cut inside like that and then hit it on a dime. Credit to her, I had the easy bit, she did the hard job”.

After, 43 minutes into the game, Japanese forward Jun Endo picked up an assist after finding Emslie on a cross to the back goal post, giving Angel City a 2-0 lead. 

Then, 43 minutes into the game, Endo closed the first half by dribbling past two defenders and scoring Angel City’s third unanswered goal. They took that lead into halftime, marking their most productive first half of the season. 

The second half was less uplifting for the crowd of 19,219 mostly Angel City fans. Their favorite team conceded two goals quickly and was on the back foot the rest of the way. However, through their sound defense and multiple defensive-oriented substitutions, they held on to beat the Current 3-2. 

Aside from the goal, Thompson was active as she played nearly positionless soccer. She roamed the field as she created scoring chances. Endo contributed in the middle by leading the team in shots on target (two) and was second in chances created (three). Riley chipped in with solid defense throughout the game. She led the team in tackles won (three). With the evening celebrating her heritage, she felt added motivation to secure the win. 

“I definitely felt extra, I don’t want to say pressure, but of course, it was pressure, but extra motivation to just do my best because that’s all you can ask for,” Riley said. “And hopefully, inspire people to live their dreams and believe they can do everything.” 

Despite the win, Riley wants Angel City to work on the details to put together a consistent performance over. She believes they were sloppy in the second half but does not know the reason; she mentioned fatigue and the comfort of leading by three goals as potential reasons. She also wants her team to stay aggressive and not give up the ball when they lead.

Riley pointed to the returns of midfielder Julie Ertz and forward Sydney Leroux as potentially impactful additions, too. Ertz is expected to return for Angel City’s next game, while Leroux’s timeline is somewhat unclear, but Leroux has been at training with the team since the beginning of April. 

“No one has seen the best of this team yet, and that is a great feeling to have, it makes us optimistic about this season,” Riley said. 

After beating the Current, Angel City’s next chance to show its potential will be against the Washington Spirit on Saturday.