LOS ANGELES — Drama. Chaos. Emotion. Welcome to the NWSL’s Decision Day.
Decision Day is the final match day of the NWSL season, where all 12 teams play simultaneously. Six teams are vying for four playoff spots (two other sides are clinched), and teams will learn about their playoff fate moments after they finish their matches.
Angel City is looking to pull off a Hollywood ending in front of a crowd filled with Hollywood stars. Every Angel City home game is star-studded, with actresses like Sophia Bush and Jane Fonda appearing at their games, among others. And there is no doubt that Sunday will feature the same.
Team captain and defender Ali Riley wants her team to show they are not all Hollywood; they have grit, too.
“When people from the outside think about Angel City, maybe before the team started playing, and you got to know our challenges, and startup, and what we’ve been going through, it’s so much about like Hollywood, and of course, the game is this amazing, sparkly atmosphere, which is so perfect. But the players, the way we play is very gritty, and everyone is sprinting their butts off and working so hard,” Riley said.
Riley mentioned defender Paige Nielsen and midfielder Savannah McCaskill as two players who embody such toughness. Both players achieve results on different parts of the field while showing grit.
Paige Nielsen is a lockdown defender, leading the team in clearances per 90 with 4.2, according to FotMob. McCaskill, on the other hand, is a team leader offensively. She is second on the team in goals and assists.
Angel City will lean on Nielsen and McCaskill on Sunday as they face the NWSL’s No. 1 team, the Portland Thorns. The Messenger says they have a 26.2% chance of making the playoffs. But if they win, they have an 84.2% chance. Everything is in play for them, but their opponent is no easy test.
The Thorns have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league, led by United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) star Sophia Smith; they lead the league with 41 goals in 2023, with the next closest team having 29. Nielsen’s defensive talent will be put to work.
Defensively, they are sound, ranking near the middle of the league. McCaskill’s talents will come into play as Angel City looks to break down the Thorns needing all three points.
Angel City has its hands full against arguably the best team in the NWSL (and one that has plenty of motivation to win to secure the NWSL Shield). But they will look to be themselves in their final game. And that means being gritty.
“We know they have incredible talents in Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver,” said head coach Becki Tweed. “And they have threats all over the the field. And no doubt they’re a quality side, and we’re looking to negate their quality strengths but also play our best potential on the ball. We want to remain being us; that’s what’s got us here, and we just have to be the best versions of ourselves.”
That toughness could result in a Hollywood ending for Angel City, one that features a second-year team making the playoffs for the first time after a chaos-filled Decision Day. The movie begins at 2 p.m.