Tired Angel City draws with the Pride, 1-1

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Angel City draws with the Pride after giving up a late equalizer.

Angel City felt they created enough chances to win both of their opening matches, but they left with only one point. The tired squad stumbled to the finish line on Friday, drawing with the Orlando Pride, 1-1. 

Angel City started as the aggressor, creating chances and holding possession. But the game evened as they approached halftime. Still, Angel City opened the match’s scoring in the 51st minute when Pride midfielder Angelina fouled Meggie Dougherty Howard in the box. Moments later, forward Claire Emslie buried the penalty kick. 

But the Pride and Angel City continued exchanging punches. A moment that proved difficult for Angel City was when defender M.A. Vignola was helped off the field and replaced by Merritt Mathias in the first half. Substituting her left Angel City with one less substitution window, disrupting head coach Becki Tweed’s plans for the group on short rest. 

Angel City had just five days off after last playing on Sunday, and they looked tired down the stretch. They fended off many of the Pride’s chances, some of which were due to the work of defenders Sarah Gorden and Paige Nielsen.

Late in the first half, Nielsen made a crucial deflection on one of Marta’s attempts to keep the scoreline even.

But the Pride kept knocking, and that is when Adriana, Marta, and Pride created the most dangerous chances. Finally, 88 minutes into the match, Marta was left unmarked on a corner kick and struck a volley to tie the game. 

“It isn’t a secret that we played on Sunday, and then we traveled to the East Coast and played on Friday,” Tweed said. “Five-day turnaround with a cross-country flight is tough. Then, the injury to M.A. [Vignola] in the first half, you use a moment, which changes the dynamic of your subs in the second half. All those things you have to consider are really important when it comes down to energy and tiredness. Another moment and we would have seen more players, but we don’t have that moment because we used it in the first half. Unfortunately, that is just how the way the game works.”

Angel City was disappointed to leave without three points, but Mathias acknowledged the difficulty of picking up any on the road in the NWSL. They had their chances to get more than one goal, much of which was due to Dougherty Howard and Emslie.

“We kind of lost a bit of momentum there and in the middle, and to come away with one point on the road is something,” Mathias said. “We wanted three, but to not drop points is good for us, and hopefully, we can keep the momentum moving forward.”

Dougherty Howard a leader for Angel City’s attack, some of which were also due to excellent service. For example, 76 minutes into the match, midfielder Kennedy Fuller received a cross from her in the center of the box. However, Fuller tried to bring it down instead of heading it, and it fell to Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse. 

Dougherty Howard ended with 30-of-37 passes completed, one chance created, and four passes into the final third per FotMob. Emslie completed five of nine crosses, created four chances, and scored one goal.

Also notable was forward Messiah Bright, who started against her former team. The Pride traded Bright to Angel City after Bright requested a move due to “personal reasons” after she led all rookies with six goals in 2023 with the Pride 

Bright made her debut for Angel City on March 17 against Bay FC. She came on as a late substitute and showed her dynamic ability. Forward Sydney Leroux, who started as a No. 9 against Bay, was not on Angel City’s match-day squad versus the Pride due to illness.

Bright found good positions in the box but could not put away any of her chances. One of her best ones came early in the match when Emslie found her in the center of the box off a free kick, but her attempt went over the bar.

Another chance came 59 minutes into the match when Bright received a ball from Dougherty Howard in a dangerous position, but her first touch was too heavy.

Bright was substituted off for forward Katie Johnson 60 minutes into the match. She finished with two chances created, one big chance missed, and ten touches inside the opposing box. 

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Bright made her first start, and rookie defender Madison Curry and goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh made their bench debuts for Angel City. Midfielder Clarisse Le Bihan also featured on the bench for the first time in 2024. Out of that group, only Curry entered the match, coming on 78 minutes into the match for defender Ali Riley.

Curry was put in a tough position. The Pride were chasing a goal, and she was tasked with being part of the group to stop them.

“Madi [Curry] just showed why she is a professional player and why she plays for this club,” Tweed said. “Opportunity to come in at one-nil-up, and she did a really good job. You put her in against Adriana and Marta in her first appearance; that is why she’s a pro at the end of the day, and she handled it really well. She has a lot of potential, and giving people their debuts early on in the season is really important because you need to use your squad.”

Next, Angel City stays on the road, traveling to Kansas City, Missouri, for a meeting with the Kansas City Current. There, they will look to be more ruthless in the final third to pick up three points.