LOS ANGELES — Sunday’s game against OL Reign was important for Angel City, as they were six points off a playoff spot with six games to go. Additionally, the Reign occupied the final playoff position, which Angel City was chasing down.
But Angel City held on to a 2-1 lead in the final 16 minutes, plus seven minutes of added time, to secure the victory.
Down the stretch, the Reign piled in pressure and held possession. Despite multiple chances, Angel City’s scrappy tackles and solid defense prevented the Reign from scoring.
“They’re very organized, well coached, quality individual players and a quality team that knows how to win games,” said head coach Becki Tweed about the Reign. “We knew going into it, it was going to be a challenge. We knew that we needed to be the best versions of ourselves to win the game, and we knew it would take all of us to do it. We focused a lot on us, and that showed there were tough moments in the game where we were able to pull each other through.”
The sellout crowd of 22,000 fans at BMO Stadium was on their feet for much of the final minutes as Angel City secured three points.
Defender Madison Hammond praised the team’s effort as they fought for the win. Angel City has conceded on numerous occasions earlier this season, surrendering their leads, but on Sunday, they did not.
“If you had looked a couple of months ago, we probably would have folded in that moment… I was really proud of the girls today,” Hammond said.
Angel City moves to ninth in the NWSL and three points behind the final playoff position held by the Reign with five games remaining after the win. Among the sellout crowd were countless celebrities and athletes, including Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
Some fans were there to see Reign and United States forward Megan Rapinoe, who played her last game against Angel City before her retirement. However, she did not start the game. Instead, she replaced forward Tziarra King as a substitute 46 minutes into the game.
Rapinoe was active in the Reign’s attack and scored on a penalty kick in the 74th minute. After the game, defenders Jasmyne Spencer, Merritt Mathias, and Hammond gifted Rapinoe flowers to honor her in her last game against Angel City; all three of them have played with Rapinoe in the past.
“It always means the most coming from players… we know what it’s like to play and what goes into it,” Rapinoe said.
One of the flower givers, Hammond, stood out in the game alongside midfielder Dani Weatherholt in a double pivot. She progressed the ball forward well and was solid in defense.
Hammond completed 80 percent of her passes and two long balls. Defensively, she had two recoveries, one block, one clearance, and one interception.
Hammond also scored a goal 57 minutes into the game when she struck a volley off forward Clarisse Le Bihan’s free-kick into the goal.
Le Bihan also impressed, but as a striker, a role she moved to after Tweed became interim head coach. She scored and assisted a goal against the Reign.
15 minutes into the game, midfielder Hammond passed an excellent long ball to forward Scarlett Camberos, who tracked it down despite a charging goalkeeper Claudia Dickey. Then, Camberos crossed it to Clarisse Le Bihan, who scored after beating defender Sofia Huerta to the ball.
Le Bihan made three passes into the final third and won four of six aerial duels, too.
Camberos was also dangerous in the attack, creating chances with nifty moves and passes. And she assisted Le Bihan’s goal. However, 73 minutes into the game, Camberos fouled forward Bethany Balcer, giving the Reign a penalty kick. Rapinoe took the kick and scored. 2-1.
Next, Angel City plays the Kansas City Current on Friday with a chance to inch closer to a playoff position.