Angel City head coach Becki Tweed said she wanted her team to prove they were “all-in” heading into their final two matches. Forward Claire Emslie echoed a similar sentiment, saying the matches were a “real test to see, ‘can we do it when it matters?’”
Angel City lived up to Tweed’s hopes in their first of the two matches, beating the Houston Dash 2-1. Their winning efforts featured a comeback from one goal down with midfielder Savannah McCaskill scoring the match-winner.
“It’s a squad effort,” Tweed said. “Everybody has a role to play, and everybody played their role incredibly well… The buy-in was huge. The togetherness of the team is incredible.”
But the match did not start in Angel City’s favor. They fell behind early when Dash midfielder Andressa Alves scored 44 minutes into the match, giving the Dash a 1-0 lead. Angel City was not composed in the first half, playing too quickly for Tweed’s liking. Despite holding most of the possession, they gave up multiple dangerous scoring chances to the Dash.
In the second half, Angel City flipped the script, though. 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson entered 65 minutes into the match and quickly made a difference. Midfielder Savannah McCaskill found her with a through ball 68 minutes into the match, and she scored the equalizer.
It seemed Thompson’s goal could be all for Angel City as the match’s final minutes ticked off the clock. But when forward Katie Johnson Johnson found McCaskill charging toward the center of the box, their fate changed, as McCaskill scored.
“Sav [Savannah Mcaskill] comes from nowhere sometimes,” Thompson said. But when KJO [Katie Johnson] made that ball, and I saw Sav coming full speed, I knew she was gonna score.”
Angel City is now eighth in the NWSL with 28 points, one point behind the playoff line (sixth place). They would have been eliminated with a loss but are in the hunt heading into the final match day.
Angelina Anderson helped keep Angel City’s playoff hopes alive by holding the Dash to one goal. After an up-and-down start, Anderson improved as the match continued, making multiple clutch saves down the stretch.
Anderson finished with nine saves, five from inside her box. She took 71 touches and made 12 recoveries, according to FotMob.
“Another young player that has been put in a high-pressure situation and dealt with it brilliantly,” said Tweed about Anderson. “A huge ceiling and a huge potential for the future. And we’re super proud to say that, you know, she’s part of this club, and it just adds to the depth that we have in the goalkeeping department.”
Anderson was not alone in her efforts, though. Defenders Paige Nielsen and Sarah Gorden also shut down many of the Dash’s attacking chances.
Nielsen completed 43-of-55 passes and took 73 touches. She also made 14 recoveries, five clearances, four blocks, and three interceptions. Gorden took 66 touches. She also made seven recoveries, six clearances, four interceptions, and one block.
While Nielsen and Gorden shined, one regular contributor was missing from the back line: M.A. Vignola. Vignola was out due to a left upper leg injury after being listed as questionable in the player availability report (PAR). Tweed said after the match that Vignola is “day-to-day” and was “close” to being available against the Dash.
Next, Angel City plays the Portland Thorns on Oct. 15. They have to beat the Thorns to make the playoffs, with help from other matches’ results. All final matchday matches are simultaneous, so Angel City will know their fate moments after playing the Thorns.