Angel City FC gets their first look at their newcomers

Credit: Henry Tran
Alyssa Thompson, the youngest player to be drafted in NWSL history, made her first appearance for Angel City FC.

LOS ANGELES — Alyssa Thompson woke up earlier than normal this morning because she was nervous. But unlike a typical high school senior, she was not anxious about a test or her classes. Instead, she was worried about making her professional debut.

Thompson, the youngest player to be drafted in NWSL history, was set to make her first appearance for Angel City FC in a friendly against Club América Femenil in the evening. She made her United States Women’s National Team debut last year, but she was about to step on the field as a professional for the first time. 

First, Thompson went to school, but after finishing her classes, her mother drove her to the game while she slept in the car. As the game approached, her nerves increased, but her mind cleared once she took the field. She was ready to go.

Thompson joined an ACFC team that missed the National Women’s Soccer League Playoffs by four points in their inaugural season last year. However, the team’s expectations increased after making multiple additions in the offseason. And she was the headliner of the new group. 

“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,” she said.

Early on, Thompson showed why she was given so much attention in recent months. She was passed the ball in the center of América’s side of the field and surveyed the field as four defenders swarmed her. Then, she pushed the ball forward and released a burst of speed, running past the defenders to create a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Once there, wrapping around the goalkeeper was no problem as she cruised by and tapped the ball in to score. 

“I just felt like everything that I prepared for up till this moment has helped me score that goal,” Thompson said. “Just feeling the hugs after and my teammates surrounding me was such an amazing feeling, and [it] definitely took some weight off my shoulders.”

Her goal was one of ACFCs three goals in their 3-0 victory, but her impact did not stop there. Throughout the game, Thompson was moved around the top line to keep the defense on their toes as head coach Freya Coombe experimented with her roster.

 She stayed aggressive with her runs to cause disruption. América could not match her speed as she glided her way into América’s box multiple times. While Thompson was looking to score herself, she actively set up her teammates in dangerous areas, leading to shots on goal, corner kicks, and more. 

48 minutes into the game, she set up Claire Emslie to score with a well-executed through ball, but the goal was called offside. Then, when Thompson was substituted out 76 minutes into the game, she was given a standing ovation and roars from the crowd. 

Another player who received a celebration from the ACFC supporters was Sarah Gorden. She made her ACFC debut after tearing her ACL before last season and was greeted with cheers when she made her first touch. 

Gorden made a few impressive clearances in the first half to hold ACFCs one goal lead. Notably, she shut down a deep cross 22 minutes into the game, displaying her athleticism to reach the ball. 

“Sarah was tremendous tonight,” Coombe said. “I think she’s been winning the ball. I think her distribution has been good. She defends the space so well 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.”

Katie Johnson, who signed with ACFC during the offseason, also debuted when she was substituted for Emslie 66 minutes into the game. Her most momentous moment came when she started a breakaway and found Simone Charley in an open space, leading to her team’s third goal.

The newcomers played a large part in ACFC’s victory, but América was playing with “tired legs” as they played a game on Monday. Still, the team was able to continue building their chemistry as Coombe gave select players extended minutes.

ACFCs next match is their first regular season game on March 26 against NJ/NY Gotham FC. After securing a victory in their only preseason match open to fans, they will look to carry that momentum into the regular season in pursuit of an NWSL Championship.

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