Angel City FC secure their first points by scoring a last-second goal against the Orlando Pride

Credit: Angel City Football Club
After a second half collapse last week, ACFC won their first game this we against the Pride.

Angel City FC (ACFC) was on the verge of heartbreak for the second straight week against the Orlando Pride. After collapsing in the second half against NJ/NY Gotham FC, it seemed like the same would happen.

ACFC took the lead when they scored 38 minutes into the game after midfielder Savannah McCaskill found forward Alyssa Thompson on a cross down the field. Pride defender Emily Madril fouled Thompson in the box for a penalty kick, and forward Claire Emslie scored it in the bottom corner of the net. 

Last season, McCaskill took all five of ACFCs penalty kicks, but Emslie has that role now.

We have players compete for everything that we do,” said head coach Freya Coombe. “[Emslie] has been competitive with taking penalties and has been doing a great job, which is why she had that role this evening.”

Then, after halftime, the Pride began to pile in pressure. They took advantage of mistakes by ACFCs midfield and created chances in and around the box. Then, 51 minutes into the game, ACFC lost the ball, and Pride forward Messiah Bright ran between defenders Sarah Gorden and Megan Reid before she scored.

The rest of the second half featured many counter-attacks and fast-paced action. Emslie attempted a second penalty kick after midfielder Dani Weatherholt’s shot was deflected, and a handball was called. However, Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse stopped the penalty kick. 

Despite chances from both sides, the game remained tied as stoppage time winded down. Then, ACFC had one last chance as defender Sarah Gorden ran towards the box down the right side of the field and was tackled to set up a corner kick. 

On the kick, Emslie lifted a ball towards the front post, where midfielder Katie Johnson leaped above a crowd of Pride and ACFC players and sent the ball into the back of the net. 

The goal was scored 99:12 minutes into the game, making it the latest game-winning goal in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) history. The previous record was set by Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch in Sep. of 2022 when she scored 99:04 minutes into her team’s game against the San Diego Wave. 

More importantly, Johnson’s goal secured ACFCs first points of the season and a 2-1 victory on the road. Despite the missed chances down the stretch, ACFC did not let the pressure of back-to-back losses get to them. 

“I don’t think our energy or doubt ever entered our minds even when [McCaskill] got the other [penalty kick],” Johnson said, “We just kept attacking. I don’t think we ever lowered our level. We just kept going and going, and we were able to finish it, so I am really proud of this group for doing that.”

McCaskill was the catalyst of many of ACFCs movements throughout the game. Notably, Moorhouse tipped her shot from outside of the box toward the back corner of the net 70 minutes into the game for an ACFC corner kick. McCaskill also drew a penalty during the final stoppage minutes of the game, but an offside was called on the play. 

She was awarded the Player of the Match title after the game. 

Midfielder Scarlett Camberos made her ACFC and NWSL debut when she was substituted for forward Jun Endo 65 minutes into the game. Notably, 80 minutes into the game, she deflected a pass that ended up in forward Simone Charley’s possession, who was fouled outside of the box for a free kick. Also, 86 minutes into the game, Camberos received a pass in the box but failed to strike the ball cleanly into the fairly open net. 

“[Camberos] has only been training for a short time with us, so it’s important for us to get her integrated with the team as quickly as possible… I thought that we were able to create a lot down her side,” Coombe said. “Now, as she gets used to the NWSL, the transitional nature, the physicality, we’ll start to see a lot more from her.”

ACFC acquired Camberos through a transfer from Club América Femenil earlier this week for an agreed-upon fee. She scored 18 goals in 41 appearances for her former club. 

Next, ACFC opens up a three-game home stand against Racing Louisville FC on April 15. During this stretch, they will also play the OL Reign and San Diego Wave. The game against the Reign will be ACFCs first NWSL Challenge Cup match this season.

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