LOS ANGELES — The NWSL is one of the world’s most competitive women’s soccer leagues. 11 points separate the table, and most matches are close. Angel City felt the pressure of such a tight table after their 1-0 loss to the Orlando Pride.
Angel City dominated possession (63.9%), created 1.89 expected goals, and attempted 16 shots from inside the box. Yet their efforts fell short to the Pride, who had the ball during just 36.1% of the match, creating 0.57 expected goals.
With two games left, Angel City trails a playoff position by three points, likely needing two wins and help to make the playoffs. They are ninth in the NWSL after losing their first game under Interim head coach Becki Tweed; they were unbeaten in 11 games (in all competitions) before Monday’s game.
“No game is an easy win,” said midfielder Dani Weatherholt. “This is definitely the tightest I’ve ever seen it [the league]. It’s always tight, but yeah.”
Angel City battled despite falling behind 1-0 22 minutes into the game when Pride forward Adriana scored a volley past goalkeeper Angelina Anderson.
Anderson started her second NWSL game after DiDi Haracic was ruled out due to a back injury. She made three saves despite allowing the game’s lone goal.
Tweed said Haracic is “day-to-day.” She said goalkeepers are “under so much strain” throughout a season, so they are managing Haracic in the final stretch.
Angel City’s control of possession made the rookie goalkeeper’s job simpler by keeping the ball on the opposite side of the pitch. And when it was in Angel City’s half, their back line was stout.
Defender Sarah Gorden led their efforts with 13 recoveries, four clearances, one block, and four of five duels won, according to FotMob. She also boosted Angel City’s attack with 98 touches, 71 passes, 18 passes into the final third, and six accurate long balls.
Paige Nielsen was also a strong contributor in their back line. She took 80 touches and made 39 of 50 accurate passes, 11 recoveries, and two clearances. Nielsen also won two tackles and five of seven duels. Offensively, she created two chances and completed 12 passes into the final third.
Angel City failed to take advantage offensively despite solid defensive efforts and control of possession. They took seven shots on target, but only a few of them challenged Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse much. The rest of their 20 shots were either off-target or blocked.
“Ultimately, soccer is a funny game,” Tweed said. “Like any other sport, you can dominate a game and lose, you can dominate a game and win, or you can not touch the ball and win a game. It’s a funny game, and how clinical you can be is ultimately into the game. Once we went down 1-0, we created opportunities to get back in the game.”
“Credit to Orlando. They had a game plan once they went up one and stuck to it. They got numbers behind the ball, and we just struggled to break them down. The players that came off the bench did a fantastic job. They impacted the game for the positive, but it’s those clinical moments and around the box just putting your body on the line when it really matters. We had opportunities. We just needed to take them.”
Midfielder Savannah McCaskill was the catalyst of Angel City’s attack. She completed 23 passes in the final third and created two chances. Forward Clarisse Le Bihan also contributed with four chances created and 11 attempted crosses.
Nielsen feels Angel City let their supporters down with the loss. 18,102 fans attended the Monday night game. The Angel City supporters, La Fortaleza, unveiled a TIfo ahead of the match featuring forwards Scarlett Camberos, Alyssa Thompson, and Katie Johnson; Lissandra Ledesma designed it.
The Tifo read “Nuestras Culturas Nos Unen,” which translates to “Our Cultures Unite Us.”
“It [the Tifo] gave me the chills right away,” Nielsen said. “The supporters are what makes us so special. They put so much work and hours into those things. That’s why it’s so disappointing to not get the results. They were there fighting with us the whole way.”
Next, Angel City plays the Houston Dash on the road in one of their final two regular-season games. After, they face the Portland Thorns at home. They will push for two wins while taking it “game by game” to boost their playoff chances.
“This one hurts for the players, for everybody right now. However, you can’t dwell on it. You’ve got to move forward from it and take the positives. We’ve got to take over the improvement and push on with them. We’ve got to be together and remain in it as a group,” Tweed said.