Angel City loses 3-1 to the Current

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Emslie scored again, but Angel City failed to secure a result after a late collapse.

LOS ANGELES — Angel City only had a few days to prepare for the top team in the NWSL, the Kansas City Current, as they went from playing on Sunday to Friday. To complicate preparations, head coach Becki Tweed had her team adapt to a 3-4-3 formation instead of their usual 4-3-3.

The goal was to shut down the Current in transition, an area in which the Current had punished their previous opponents, leading the league in goals. The new formation allowed Angel City to have five players available to defend the Current in transition, as they built with three center backs and two No. 6s. 

It was a plan that worked nearly flawlessly despite little time to prepare until it did not in Angel City’s 3-1 loss to the Current. 

“We didn’t have a crazy amount of time to prepare, but credit to the team and the time that we did have, they executed really, really well,” Tweed said. “We did limit those chances… We had a three-day turnaround, really call it two. But the team was really bought in and executed the game plan really well, so that was pleasing for us.”

Angel City held Current forwards Bia and Temwa Chawinga (who had four goals each entering Friday) at bay for much of the match as they created chances for themselves. It helped them build a 1-0 lead entering halftime. 

Angel City’s goal was scored by forward Claire Emslie. 34 minutes into the match. She played a ball to Thompson, who returned it moments later. Then, Emslie beat a defender in the box and fired a shot home to five Angel City a 1-0 lead. 

It was an excellent display of skill from Emslie and Thompson, and Emslie’s fourth goal of the season.

“Claire [Emslie] has found this confidence and flare in the box,” Tweed said. “It’s really cool to see her, not even the scrappy goals, but actually scoring with composure. She knows what she’s doing. You need a player like that. A player that you know is going to step up and know that every game she is going to create for you or score out for you.”

Thompson logged a mature performance in a deeper-than-usual role as a wingback that had her running from box to box. The 19-year-old showed poise when taking defensive responsibility and flashed her skill in the attacking third. 

“At times, [Thompson] had to defend as a left back, and she embraced it,” Tweed said. “She did really well in it.  It requires a lot of up and down running box to box. She’s more familiar with being a little bit closer to the goal, but she showed more maturity tonight and how much she’s growing. She’s still 19.

Despite Emslie and Thompson’s push, Angel City only led by one heading into the second half. Being more clinical in the final third could have helped Angel City increase their lead, but they were left vulnerable.

Then, the Current capitalized. 

54 minutes into the match, Current midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo scored on a shot from outside the box to equalize. Still, Angel City limited the Current and appeared headed for a draw as the final minutes ensued.

However, quickly, everything came apart. 

Claire Lavogez scored in the 90th minute to put the Current ahead. Then, in stoppage time, she found the back of the net again to seal the Current’s victory. It was a frustrating loss for Angel City, who seemed destined for a result for much of the match before a final few minutes in which they ” switch[ed] off.”

“You can’t switch off in the last six minutes against any team in the NWSL, let alone a team that has scored 20 goals,” Tweed said. “That is reflective of something we need to look at every day, and you just have to get better from it.”

Luckily for Angel City, they play again on Mar. 3 against the expansion side, Utah Royals. The match offers the team a chance to rebound from the Current loss.